This is a rough time of year for me. It is nearing the anniversary of the events that are recounted in Jo Anna. The story came about because of a writing exercise on one of the Authors boards I used to have time for. Someone read a scene that I had written for the exercise and asked me if it was true. When I told the board that it was indeed true everyone encouraged me to tell the whole story. Originally the scene dealt with a soldier standing tall and proud in the sunshine. His uniform is immaculate and he looks every inch the soldier, from the soles of his paratrooper boots to the Beret on his head. On closer inspection the reader learns that there are tears streaming down his cheeks. In front of him is a casket and inside is a female. He yearns to once more touch the hair like spun gold, see the mischief in her twinkling eyes and to feel her kiss once more. To once more hear the music of her voice as she calls him Daddy.
I once was that soldier and stood that watch. When I decided to write that story there was no way that I could bring myself to write it in the first person. So I changed the names and wrote it from the outside looking in. It is sometimes said that a writer should write what they know. Well I knew that story intimately. From being the grandfather who sits in terror watching his granddaughters get their first riding lesson, to the soldier standing in the California summer sun feeling as if the world around him had disappeared and only he alone stood there watching his daughters funeral. In truth there were a lot of people who were touched by the joyous spirit of that little girl not just this writer. They all tried to help ease the loneliness that followed and I thank them for that. It was July 15th 1980 when it all happened and her real name was Jean Marie.