Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Grace-filled Tuesdays (Book Club "Meeting" #23): Cliffhangers and Cliffs

In my last Grace-filled Tuesdays post (coincidentally, my last blog post, written way back on Sept. 27...sheesh, I am not a very prolific blogger these days!), I left you with a cliffhanger of sorts.  I promised that at our next "meeting" I would reveal the inspiration for the scene in Finding Grace where Tom Buckley pats Grace Kelly--who is dying of unrequited love for him--on the head, and she just about dissolves into a puddle of goo. 

Well, if you think I wrote that scene into the story because my very own Tom Buckley (that is, my husband, who became my boyfriend when we were both 15 and has been my one and only ever since) patted me on the head in a similar manner, well...you would be...


There are many scenes in the book that were inspired in part by my high school memories: Grace and her friends eating at a local pizza joint after a football game, for instance, and Tom patiently giving Grace ski lessons at Whiteface Mt. (which a similarly gap-toothed heartthrob also did for yours truly), to name two; but that head-patting scene was inspired by something you would probably never guess.

The fall of our senior year, my husband broke his arm in a football game, ending his season prematurely.  (And the team's season, too, because we didn't manage to win another game without him.  But I digress.)  Because of the location of the break, his arm was in traction and he had to sleep sitting upright in a chair rather than lying in a bed.  He was in the hospital for a few days, and I went to see him as often as I could.

One day when I was there with him, he got tired; so I told him not to worry about staying awake to visit with me, and I held a pillow for him, so that he could rest his head against it while he slept in his chair.  As I was sitting there, holding that pillow and ignoring any aches or numbness caused by staying in that awkward position (and staring at the sleeping face of the handsomest boy I had ever seen with a look of utter adoration, I expect), his dad came into the room so quietly that I didn't notice him right away.  And before I knew it, I felt the warm and loving hand of this man--who was truly a giant in the way he influenced my life--resting on the top of my head.  His son and I had been dating for going-on-three years by then, but there hadn't been a whole lot of physical signs of affection between us up until that point.  (You have to understand that this was the mid-1970's, and in general, they were far less huggy times than we're living in now. I could no more imagine hugging Mr. Pearl--or one of my male teachers, or any grown man who wasn't a blood relative--than I could imagine living on the moon.)  So that simple pat on the head, so unexpected and so sweet, flooded me with warmth and made a lump form in my throat.  That hand resting on my head made me feel so loved and appreciated that from that moment on, the head-pat became one of my favorite ways to give and receive affection.  And that's why Tom pats Grace on the head; and that's why Grace, who has never been kissed by a boy, thinks it's so wonderful that she imagines it must be every bit as knee-weakening an experience as a kiss.

My father-in-law has been gone for 13 years now, so I can't ask him what he was thinking that day; but when I remember the incident now, I often wonder if a lump formed in his throat, too, when he walked into that hospital room and saw his eldest son being so obviously LOVED by his young girlfriend, who was holding a pillow for him to rest his head on and gazing at him as if she was witnessing a miracle or something.

Okay, so that's it for Finding Grace.  Now for a quick word about Erin's Ring, a novel that goes back and forth in time between the 1990's and the early 1800's and tells the story of some Irish-Catholic immigrants who had a big influence on a small New England town.  I'm giving away five free copies of Erin's Ring, with the winners to be announced on Nov. 1.  I'm looking for help via tweets (use the hashtag #erinsringgiveaway), or via Facebook posts, or via blog posts that mention the giveaway.  If you'd like to help me share the giveaway details, I'll throw your name into the hat.

Before I sign off, I want to show you some pictures of my youngest son (the one who is currently living in Germany), taken on some famous cliffs overlooking the ocean.  He and a friend decided to spend the four-day Columbus Day weekend in Ireland.  They flew to Dublin and visited some pubs and castles (and of course, they also visited the home of Guinness beer!).  Then they took a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher.  My boy said that it was an absolutely mind-blowing experience for him.  He could hardly believe that he was really there on those iconic cliffs; truly, he said, it surpassed any expectations he had for it.  He's got lots of Irish blood in his veins, and I think he felt as if he'd come home.

My love for Ireland runs very deep, in spite of the fact that I don't have nearly as much Irish blood in me as my husband or my sons.  (If you've read either of my novels, you might have guessed this about me.)  I've never had much of a bucket list, since my life has been blessed already beyond any wishes I ever had for it.  But I think I need to stand on those cliffs one day, too; yes, I think I need to see the Emerald Isle with my own two eyes.

Until next time, dear readers:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.


  1. This post gives me all the heart-eyed emojis. Young love, head-pats, Ireland? I just love it.

    1. Oh, Madeline, you are so sweet! When I was writing what I was sure would be my one and only novel, I just had to figure out away to fit that precious memory of my father-in-law's simple gesture of affection (on the day I first realized that he probably loved me) into the story. It was one of those somewhat life-changing moments--which goes to show that little things really do mean a lot!

  2. Wow, those pictures are beautiful! And I love the head pat by Mr. Pearl....he really loved you!!