Saturday 15 April 2017

Dear Michael Rosen | On Reading Michael Rosen's SAD BOOK

Dear Michael Rosen

I have just bought and read (several times) your SAD BOOK. 

Everyone’s sad story is different.
There are times when I feel as if my whole adult life has been full of sad.
My dad died when I was just 20 years old,
My one and only (to my knowledge) pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 16 weeks and more than 30 years later I still mourn the baby that died and the others that were never even conceived.
After several years of being very unwell my husband died seven years ago,
and two years later my wonderful mum, who helped me through all of this (and more) died too.

Like you I sometimes talk about feeling sad.
Like you I don’t always want to speak about sad.
Like you I write about being sad. Quite a lot actually.
I write stories and memoir. And I sometimes write about sad in my academic sociological writing.
I find reading about other people's experiences of sad especially helpful. 
So thank you.

Being sad can sometimes feel lonely,
Thank goodness then for my good friend memory.

My memories of my dad, Ron, include the fun we had together and his encouragement of me to be anything I wanted to be.
My dad liked to write too and I think of him often when I'm writing. He made up stories to tell me on the way to school. My favourite was about a gnome who lived under a bridge. He was called Tipperty Tapperty Sam and made dolls house furniture for a living.  
Every year my dad would paint faces on our Easter Sunday boiled eggs; another memory making me smile this weekend. 

For a while not being able to have any biological children of my own made me feel so sad I thought I was going mad. But I have been lucky to have had - through working relationships and friendships - a life full of children and young people to make memories with. And, although it might seem strange to others, I believe that my work trying to help others - personally, professionally, politically - is in some part in memory of, in honour of, the children I do not have.  

Unlike you and Eddie I don't like football I'm afraid. My husband John did though, very much, and reading your book I laughed to myself thinking of this. John loved books and always had at least one in his pocket or his backpack. He was funny and clever and kind and although his illness made him very sad at times we never ran out of things to talk about and my memories of him are full of great stories. 

My lovely, lovely mum was called Dorothy. I have so many wonderful memories of her it's too difficult to choose one or two. Although she left school at 14 and worried about her lack of book knowledge she was one of the brightest, shiniest people I have ever met. Her positive approach, to what was not always an easy life, and her good humour was infectious. Her love for me was unconditional. 

I know you love birthdays, all birthdays. I do too.
My mum's birthday was in July and mine is at the beginning of the year. The year my dad died (at the end of January) my mum gave me a present on her birthday. 'Happy unbirthday', she said.
After that we always bought each other gifts every January and July. 
The year after my mum died, a dear friend presented me with a couple of wrapped parcels when I gave her her birthday presents from me. 
Friends can be wonderful when we're sad can't they? 

For me, and I think for you (I hope you don't mind me saying this), memory is a constant companion to sad and my heart feels full of love even when my 'sad space' seems overwhelming. 

I cried when I read your sad story Michael. It made me smile too. Michael Rosen's SAD BOOK is a beautiful book. Thank you again for writing it and thanks to Quentin Blake also.

With love

Gayle Letherby  

PS To any friends who read this letter please read to yourself and to others: Michael Rosen's SAD BOOK (2004 London: Walker Books Ltd)

1 comment:

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