Book Title: My Funny dad, Harry
Author: Karen Arlettaz Zemek
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Publication Date: 2007
Price/Currency: $12.95 USD
Reviewer: Yvonne Perry www.yvonneperry.net
Reviewer: Yvonne Perry www.yvonneperry.net
I had flashbacks of my grandfather when reading Karen’s book about her father. Those idiosyncrasies that characterize a man raised in the early 1900s reminded me of the fun times I had with my grandfather. He was such a quiet person. One never knew what he was thinking. I decided after reading My Funny Dad, Harry that I am not supposed to understand all the crazy things he did; I only need to accept them as part of who he was. I envision Harry and my grandfather somewhere in the afterlife having a conversation about the good old days.
Busy with his hands, ever creating something from whatever material was available, seems to be Harry’s way of passing time. Whether in the woodworking shop, or trying his hand at being a locksmith, Harry always managed to provide a descent living for his family. His family included foster children that were raised alongside his own children. He was so unconcerned about what others thought of him, he didn’t even wear a tuxedo to his own daughter’s wedding. Well, that’s just the way Harry was.
Harry was always busy, so it was no surprise that he had to have his hands into the derby race when his daughter participated in AWANA. And, the man loved cats. This was way before anyone thought of having pets spayed or neutered so there were always plenty of furry critters hanging around the house or maybe I should say the kitty condo he made for them. Did I say the man loved cats?
The book has humor aplenty, but there is also a sad side of the story when Karen’s mom, Harry’s wife, Lenore became sick. But, this was just another chance for Harry to come to the rescue and show his love for his family. He would not allow his beloved wife to be admitted to a nursing home. He personally took on the daily care for her and did not once leave her alone. He made sure someone was with her if he had matters outside the home to tend to. After a stay in the hospital Lenore finally passed on. A few months later, Harry, never admitting his loneliness, fell and broke his hip. After three weeks in the hospital he made an amazing recovery. You have to wonder if perhaps it was his concern for all those cats living alone at his house that sprang him to life again. During his recovery, he came up with a new way to do the things he used to do including weeding with a mechanism he created that didn’t force him to bend over. Such an inventor, that Harry!
Harry had a system of organization that would not be matched even by those popular design shows you see on TV where a “professional” organizer comes in and puts an end to clutter. Harry saved everything and everything had a place. He even “dated’ his food. I bet you never heard of a man doing that! When remembering birthdays, he even put the person’s year of birth on the calendar. Probably just wanted to see how old they were.
At age 89 after living a full and loving life, Harry joined his wife in heaven. Karen was the one who found him lying between the toilet and the tub in his bathroom. She made sure he was buried in his brand new underwear she found neatly arranged in his dresser drawer. The package still unopened. I felt for her. I wanted to cry, but I knew that Karen was a strong person. Not that she wouldn’t grieve for her dear dad, but that she had a handle on life and a faith that would keep her chin up through the sale of her dad’s house.
I liked the photos Karen included in her book. I’ve met all the kitties and in case I need more information about any one of them, I could resort to Appendix B in the back of the book. I cracked up when I saw the picture of Harry’s oven. He was not much of a cook, but having good organizing skills, he made good use of the space as extra storage for small appliances!
Now, you might imagine that a book about someone else’s dad might be boring, but the thing I liked best about the book was that it made me remember the good times I had with my own quirky male relatives. Zemek used a chronological method to arrange her material. That was certainly a sensible approach. After all it was a biography about her father’s life.
If you want to laugh and cry, this is the book for you. While it is light-hearted, there is a great deal of stronger emotions present as Karen pays tribute to her father. She says it helped her process her own grief. I can see why it would have that benefit for her.
I will be interviewing Karen on my podcast, Writers in the Sky. I look forward to learning more about her writing process, and her publishing experience with Outskirts Press. She will also share some marketing tips with us so be sure to join the author February 15, 2008 or listen to the archived show thereafter at http://yvonneperry.blogspot.com