I confess I love having my bestie in the spotlight. We always support each other, and her new book is such a great read, I really wanted to tell y’all about it. But I figured why should I do that when she’s perfectly capable of telling you herself?
Just a quick bio in case you don’t already know Liz Flaherty. She spends non-writing time sewing, quilting, and thinking she should clear a path through the fabric stash that furnishes her office. She also loves to travel and spend time with the grandkids (the Magnificent Seven) and their parents. She and Duane, her husband of a really long time, live in the old farmhouse in Indiana they moved to in 1977. They’ve talked about moving, but really, 45 years of stuff? It’s not happening!
You want to find her, here’s a bunch of links to her social media:
Liz, you’re up!
Nan! Thanks for having me yet again. I’m starting to feel right at home here on your pretty website.
I remember thinking, years ago, that when the nest was empty and we’d retired, we would travel. A lot. We wouldn’t have pets because we would never be home long enough to care for them. We would do…oh, everything! Everything we’d never had the time or the money to do before. There would be time for all those firsts we’d never experienced but always wanted to.
Except that we didn’t do that. After being together more than two thirds of our lives while having nothing in common except each other and the kids and grands we love more than our lives, we still had nothing in common. So we ran with it. We have more fun than we ever have, and we do, as the books our kids used to urge, “choose our own adventures.”
But it was there in the back of my writerly mind, taking that time to do things I’d never done before but always kind of wished I had. Like a bucket list, only not things to do before dying; rather, things to do in a measured length of time. Things like road trips, spending a month in a lake house, or learning to do something exciting—like play the ukulele. Maybe buy clothes that aren’t on sale or shoes that don’t go with anything.
That was when I met Syd Cavanaugh. There she was, right under the words Chapter One in a new manuscript. She was a widow whose dearly loved husband had died of ALS a year before, and he left her a note in the marriage notebooks they kept urging her to wallow in grief for a year if she thought she must, but then to take the next year and do things she’d always wanted to but hadn’t—for whatever reason, including him.
Thus began A Year of Firsts. On the second day of her first road trip alone ever, Syd meets Clay McAlister. She recognizes him from his years as a telejournalist and his syndicated column Good Presents, but what’s he doing in Fallen Soldier, Pennsylvania?
The story begins.
A Year of Firsts
Widow Syd Cavanaugh is beginning a “year of firsts” with the road trip she’d promised her husband she’d take after his death. An unplanned detour lands her in Fallen Soldier, Pennsylvania, where she meets the interesting and intelligent editor of the local paper.
Television journalist Clay McAlister’s life took an unexpected turn when a heart attack forced him to give up his hectic lifestyle. He’s still learning how to live in a small town when meeting a pretty traveler in the local coffee shop suddenly makes it all much more interesting.
While neither of them is interested in a romantic relationship, their serious case of being “in like” seems to push them that way. However, Clay’s heart condition doesn’t harbinger a very secure future, and Syd’s already lost one man she loved to a devastating illness—she isn’t about to lose another. Where can this relationship possibly go?
Buy link: Amazon
Sell it and take care of the kids.
It was the decision they’d made when they were halfway through the renovation of the brick Cape Cod that proclaimed itself to be Peaceful Cottage on the sign on its picketed white gate. Syd and Paul had referred to it as the Cavanaugh Money Pit.
But now the kids were grown and gone from home. The college bills were paid off and no one slept in the bedrooms under the eaves. The house was finished to the point that it was on the home tour that took place in Peru, Indiana during the almost-annual Cole Porter Festival. It was a beautiful place.
Syd kind of hated it.
Give yourself a year to mourn if you think you need to, then put it away. Make the next year a time of firsts. Do things you’ve always wanted to but haven’t because life—or I—got in the way.
They hadn’t made that decision together, but it had been written in the last of the coil-bound notebooks with The Marriage Book printed on the covers that had diarized their lives together. You’ve taken care of me through All of This. Now it’s time to take care of you.
She hadn’t taken care of All of This, though. If she had, she’d have found a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Paul would still be with her. They’d be sharing Marriage Books and boxes of scandalously cheap wine and making plans for what they would do Someday.
Had she always thought in words that started with capital letters? She thought maybe she had.
It had been more than eleven months since Paul left them. Still smiling although he couldn’t talk, still the man she’d loved since the sixth grade. Syd had taken that eleven and a half months, every minute of it up to this very day, to learn to live without him. She’d read every book on loss the library offered, joined a grief group, and tightened the already strong bonds of her relationship with her daughters and sons-in-law.
She’d given away things Paul had loved to others who would care for them as he had. One morning, wearing disreputable jogging pants and one of her husband’s equally shabby flannel shirts, she’d packed his clothes and driven them to the veterans’ thrift store in a neighboring city, crying all the way there and singing along with Paul’s beloved Eagles on the way home. She’d given his motorcycle and his pickup to the girls’ husbands, with all five of them weeping as she handed over the keys.
And then she sold the house, standing for a long time at the sign on the gate when she left it for the last time. Peaceful Cottage. She’d loved the house for a long time, but thought Tribulation House would have been a more fitting name. Leaving it was painful because it felt almost as if she was leaving Paul, but there was respite in the move, too. That she had felt relief at her husband’s death was something she couldn’t make herself say.
She made sure her will was in order and gave lists of passwords and account numbers to the girls. She sat at the rolltop desk that had been one of the first pieces of furniture she and Paul had bought and that now lived in in Haley’s big farmhouse kitchen and made a list. The girls helped her with it, sharing memories and ideas and a bottle of the same wine their parents used to drink out of a box.
When the list was complete, she handed it to them. “What do you think? What would Daddy think?”
They pored over the handwritten sheet, Haley’s brown head and Shiloh’s blond one close together. Syd stopped for a moment, interrupting the plans that were jumbling together in her head, her heart spilling over. If she hadn’t had them when their father died, she’d have wanted to die, too. How could she leave them?
Paul had covered that question, too, in the marriage book. Don’t start feeling as if you’re deserting the family. The girls will want this for you, and you’ll always be there if they need you. Do this for you, Syd.
What will you do first?