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An Open Invitation

By Andrew McCarthy

My father died this year. No one who knew us would have said we were close. He and my mother divorced thirty years ago, shortly after I had left our New Jersey home to pursue my life. Not long after that he remarried suddenly and settled in a small costal town in Maine to restart his own life.

“Good” my brothers and I joked, “That ought be enough distance for everyone.”

Over the next few decades my dad and I saw each other rarely. We spoke only occasionally. Yet when we did, he always invited me up to Maine.

“An open invitation, Pal,” he would shout into the phone. “It’s glorious here. Come on up.”

I would demure, and the strain of a scarred past and an unrealized present would rise up quickly. Rather than shine light on what was and wasn’t there, we rushed off the line and back to our individual lives.

As my own children grew, they began asking why they had never met Grandpa—I could give them no reason good enough, so one summer morning we set out for Thomaston.

On that lone trip north we were received graciously, if tentatively. My kids loved meeting their grandfather and his wife. I found it odd that scattered around his home were long forgotten relics from my childhood—a chair, a small painting of a boat, a bookcase. “How had these things gotten here, into this strange house,” I thought to myself as I wandered from room to room.

While pleasant, our brief visit didn’t engender a passion in either of us to bridge whatever gap the years had etched.

Then last winter I heard my father was sick—dying—in South Carolina where he and his wife had gone to wait out a particularly bad New England freeze. He had been sent home from the hospital to a home that was not theirs.

I surprised myself and boarded a plane in order to be by his bed. He was at times eerily lucid. I said to him things one says at the bedside of the dying—truthful, loving things. Tears stained both our cheeks. I left him there and returned home to work. The next weekend he was hanging on, and I went again to him. He was remote now, nearly gone. There was no conversation. Each massive effort required for his intermittent breath brought him only closer to death. I held his hand and whispered to him.

I was lucky to bear witness to the passing of the man I knew so deeply but not at all. We had not washed clean our past, but set down its burden in order to share a present that was oh so final— yet can the business between parent and child ever be final?

Lately, I find myself growing more and more eager to accept his open invitation and return to Maine.


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Tuesday, March 28 at 7pm
Barnes & Noble Union Square
In conversation with Gayle Forman
33 E. 17th St., New York, NY 10003

Wednesday, March 29 at 7pm
Barnes & Noble
Vernon Hills Shopping Center
680 Post Rd., Eastchester, NY 10583

Thursday, March 30 at 7pm
Books & Greetings
271 Livingston St., Northvale, NJ 07647

Saturday, April 1
Texas Teen Book Con | Houston, TX

Sunday, April 2
Alamo Drafthouse | Austin, TX

Monday, April 3 at 7pm
Books, Inc Opera Plaza
Not Your Mother’s Book Club
601 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, CA 94107

Tuesday, April 4 at 7pm
Book Passage
51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA 94925

Wednesday, April 5 at 8pm
Live Talks LA
In conversation with Pico Iyer
Ann and Jerry Moss Theatre, New Roads School
3131 Olympic Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90404

Thursday, April 6 at 7pm
Elliott Bay Books
1521 10th Ave., Seattle, WA 98122

Friday, April 7 at 7pm
Powell’s Books
3415 SW Cedar Hills Blvd., Beaverton, OR 97005

Sunday, April 9 at 5pm
Politics & Prose
5015 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008

Monday, April 10 at 7pm
Boswell Books
2559 N. Downer Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53211

Tuesday, April 11 at 7pm
The Book Stall at Chestnut Court
In conversation with Betsy Bird
811 Elm St., Winnetka, IL 60093

Wednesday, April 12 at 7pm
Talk of the Stacks Series
Hennepin County Library
Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55401

Thursday, April 13 at 6:30pm
Parnassus Books
Hillsboro Plaza Shopping Center
3900 Hillsboro Pike #14, Nashville, TN 37215

Tuesday, April 18 at 6:30pm
Rainy Day Books
At Woodneath Library
8900 N. Flintock Rd., Kansas City, MO 64157

Wednesday, April 19 at 7pm
St. Louis County Library
With The Novel Neighbor
1640 S. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63131

Thursday, April 20 at 7pm
Georgia Center for the Book
With Little Shop of Stories
Dekalb County Public Library
215 Sycamore St., Decatur, GA 30030

Friday, April 21 at 7pm
Books & Books
265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables, FL 33134

Tuesday, April 25 at 7pm
Barnes & Noble
Market Fair, 3535 US-1 #400, Princeton, NJ 08540

Wednesday, April 26 at 7pm
Brookline Booksmith
279 Harvard St., Brookline, MA 02446

Monday, May 1 at 7pm
Darien Library
In conversation with Dani Shapiro
1441 Post Rd., Darien, CT 06820