Settle back with that coffee, today’s peek is into something a little different. I usually feature other romance authors and Vonna/Vella is indeed a romance author, but she’s…well…I’ll let her explain in her own words *s*
Biography and death investigation
I never knew my grandfather because he died at thirty-six when my mother was just five. So why my longtime fascination about him and why have I written a recently-published biography called Grandfather Lost?
The answer is multi-faceted but comes down to two key elements. I’m a writer: www.VellaMunn.com and www.VonnaHarper.com and so was Grandpa. www.HomerEonFlint.com. I’m convinced we share the same writing genes.
Reason #2 is I now caretake all of his writing material. That includes published stories, unpublished manuscripts, personal letters to and from his wife, professional correspondence, AND the newspaper articles about the investigation into his violent death. I believed he was murdered by a would-be thief.
A stack of letters sat on a closet shelf in Nana’s Nevada City house, wrapped in brown paper and held together with string. Only a handful of them were from Grandpa, and—though I thanked Mother when she first handed them to me after Nana’s death—I didn’t grasp their full meaning. Tucked in the stack were also two clippings from the Nevada City newspapers. The first, dated March 29, 1924, was titled, “Homer Flindt, Mystery Man, Known Here. Wife Was Mabel Williams, Who Is Now Teaching at Washington, Nevada County.” The article began by reporting that Nevada City friends were shocked to hear of Homer’s death.
The headline of the second article was, “Mystery of Homer Flindt’s Death Remains Unsolved; Bandit Theory Is Fading.”
Fast forward to 2000. Uncle Max and his wife, both collectors and in ill health, were living in Palo Alto, not far from where Grandpa had lived and died and was buried. Uncle Max’s daughter had gone there to help her parents plan for the future. In a shed on their land, she found gold: dozens of letters between our grandparents. Mother had often spoken of more correspondence than what was in Nana’s house.
My cousin took them to her aunt, my mother. Not long after, my sister Judee saw them. Mother placed the collection in two stacks, both wrapped in paper. One was labeled: “Daddy’s letters to Mother…Aug 31, 1923 to Dec 20.” The other stack contained Nana’s original letters to Grandpa from Oct 1, 1923 to March 1924.
My sister emailed me and said: “THE LETTERS are in my possession! I talked Mother into letting me copy them on my copier. So I made 4 copies of Homer’s letters: for you, me, Lisa [Judee’s daughter] and Robin [Aunt Vella’s oldest child]. Then I ran out of ink. So tomorrow we’re going to Auburn for more ink and to mail your letters to you. Then I’ll copy Nana’s letters and send them as soon as possible. I’ve been reading bits and pieces of letters as I copy them and they brought tears to my eyes many times. I scanned the last page of Homer’s last letter (written 3 days before he died) and attached it to this email. I hope you can read it. There is absolutely no doubt that his sole intention was to be with his family. Especially the part where he says, ‘I’ll tell the world that nothing is going to tempt me to spoil the prospects one little bit. You can count on me absolutely.'”
“So,” Judee continued, “I believe whatever happened to him was out of his control. God, what a loss! How I wish we could have known him. What a horrible time that must have been for Nana. No wonder she never re-married; the love of her life could never be replaced.”
A few days later I sat in a recliner in my office with the first package from my sister on my lap. (Because of the number of letters and need to make copies, she sent them in several separate packages). Taking out one letter at a time, I held it up to the light coming from the window behind me and started reading. I was immediately transported into the past. My grandparents’ activities became mine. I shared their days and emotions.
Grandpa, when I read what you’d written your wife, I lost myself in you. There you were! Alive again. That first letter written August 30, 1923 came from the heart of a man who’d just said good-bye to his wife and children and didn’t know when he’d see them again.
Dear, dear Dears Four, Well, I’ve missed you all a lot more than you might think. If I hadn’t bought something to read on the train, (after seeing them off) I’d have been pretty blue. But I was glad to know that you were all being well cared for, and that Mommie was getting a good rest. I suppose that by now you are within a few yards of the old home—Gee—wish I was there too. I wasn’t able to do anything about the packing today—too much work, including some left over from yesterday. I expect to put in all of tomorrow at it, and should finish. Sorry you won’t have the use of the pans and dishes until Monday, but it can’t be helped. Anyway, you may decide to stay over in Nevada City (where Nana’s mother lived); hence I am writing this in duplicate and sending a copy to both places. Scuse blunders—lots of work—big hurry. Will send important cases by parcels post tomorrow. A lot I’d like to say, but there’s no time. Hope everything went as it should, and that the trip wasn’t hard on anyone. My love to little grandma (his mother-in-law) and heaps and heaps to all of you, with hugs and kisses all around, big ones, including a rough-house for Max, a tickling for Bonnie, a neck-blowing for Baboo Fint, and a special-extra kiss for Mommie. Must go now. Bye-bye. Will write again soon. Hope I hear from you before very long. Lovingly, Daddy Fint. XXXXXXXX
Thank you Vella, the book sounds intriguing. I would have loved to have had letters…or anything, really, from my grandparents, or even my parents for that matter. Or even pictures. My father was a great camera buff. I remember when he got the very first 8mm “movie” camera that came out from Kodak and I had to skate back and forth on the sidewalk (it was iced over) so he could film it. That camera went everywhere with him, as did his not so little 35mm, which also came out and flashed at us at every opportunity. He had literally thousands upon thousands of pictures of us growing up, pics of him in his army days and when he was in an orchestra with his brother. He had slides of all our trips…
When he passed away, my mother took it in in her head that if she didn’t have anything that reminded her of him around, she would be able to get over her grief faster. That included pictures. So she lit a fire in a big barrel and burned every single picture he had ever taken, whether he was in them or not. All of it, gone. Thankfully I had a lot of the 8mm film at my house, heaven only knows why, and I had a few pics of him when he was younger and in the army, but only a handful. I had their wedding picture too because the year he passed, it was their 50th anniversary and he had wanted me to get the photo restored and framed as a surprise for her.
I have pictures everywhere. Pictures of Jefferson growing up…albums FULL of them. And pics of the munchkins. I have CD’s loaded with bazillions of digital pics which I’m hoping don’t degrade over the years or get corrupted somehow. I don’t trust them entirely, however, so when I take pics I like, I print them out just in case.
Before I go on any trip, I write a letter to my son cuz…you just never know, right? He was helping to clean and pack up the house the past few weeks and I showed him where I keep all the important papers just in case. I told him about the letters too, because sometimes it’s easier to write down the stuff you want to say but can’t say out loud without getting all gushy and teary-eyed. I say that stuff to him anyway, but I figure words fade into the ether after a while, but if they’re written down, he can read them and know how much he was loved, how proud I am of everything he’s overcome, everything he’s accomplished. I need to start doing that for the grandkids too, all three of them, because I can’t imagine what my life would be like without them.
Aww man, now I’m all sentimental and stuff. Thanks Vella! LOL