I never wanted to spend five weeks with my eighty-year-old father. The explosive gas. The same story for the five billionth time. The all-night self-scratching. The sleep apnea machine. The gut that obscures all ability to hit the toilet.
But I needed my father.
I wanted to launch my debut novel To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis by taking readers into the world of the book. For thirty-four days, I would walk the 10,000-year-old Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. In fifteen mile daily increments, I would become the first living person to replicate their journey through Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.
Starry-eyed, I believed my walk would make my book a success. I imagined a best seller. News crews following my journey. My name is blinking neon lights. People standing in awe, holding my novel for an autograph.
I'm an idiot. A complete idiot.
I didn't understand my idiocy when I approached my cantankerous father and asked him to be my wingman on my Natchez Trace walk. I needed him to drop me off and pick me up fifteen miles later. After striking out with everyone else, he was my last hope to make a grab at literary glory.
He said no.
Because why would he want to spend five weeks with me? We shouted instead of speaking, argued in place of connection. For most of my life, I dreaded every interaction with Dad. His lectures and nagging and know-it-all-ness. Yet I was willing to put all that aside, while he rejected me?
Wrong answer, Old Man!
When I finally regrouped, I appealed to his ego. The Roy Show. In towns full of strangers who'd never heard his stories. Junk shops and crap food he could eat without Mom's knowing.
He was totally on board with that.
For five weeks, I lived with my aging father. I walked fifteen miles a day on pavement. Through every conceivable quirk of weather, I duct-taped my shredded feet and dragged my aching joints across three states.
The hardest thing I've ever done. Walking. For thirty-four days. With my maddening father circling in the car.
Think of the most aggravating person in your life. Imagine putting yourself through the worst endurance exercise possible with them. How would you feel?
I wrote Not Without My Father: One Woman's 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace to explore that journey. I won't reveal how my dysfunctional family adventure turned out, but I will tell you why you need to read this book. RIGHT NOW.
You're losing someone this very minute. Incrementally, they're slipping away. You mean to have an adventure with them, to spend an hour or an afternoon, to do that thing. But Life's crazy gets in the way. You put it off, because this person is maddening, right? And before you know it, that person is gone: either because they've moved on to another phase of Life, or they've passed away.
I wrote Not Without My Father to encourage everyone to grab a loved one and Make a Memory. Right Now. Today. To turn "I wish I had" into "I'm glad I did." You shouldn't care about this book because I wrote it. You shouldn't move it to the top of your overflowing reading list because I need to make money.
You should read this book because it will change your life. You will connect with a loved one, and you will Make a Memory. You will have an experience to treasure, something you wouldn't otherwise have. Read Not Without My Father. Be inspired to Make a Memory in 2015.
And I want to hear about the memories you make. Please submit them to me at mystories(at)andrawatkins(dot)com. I promise, I'll read every submission, and I'll highlight them on my website andrawatkins.com.
Andra Watkins lives in Charleston, South Carolina. A non-practicing CPA, she has a degree in accounting from Francis Marion University. She’s still mad at her mother for refusing to let her major in musical theater, because her mom was convinced she’d end up starring in porn films. In addition to her writing talent, Andra is an accomplished public speaker. Her acclaimed debut novel To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis was published by Word Hermit Press in 2014.
About her book
Can an epic adventure succeed without a hero?
Andra Watkins needed a wingman to help her become the first living person to walk the historic 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. She planned to walk fifteen miles a day. For thirty-four days.
After striking out with everyone in her life, she was left with her disinterested eighty-year-old father. And his gas. The sleep apnea machine and self-scratching. Sharing a bathroom with a man whose gut obliterated his aim.
As Watkins trudged America’s forgotten highway, she lost herself in despair and pain. Nothing happened according to plan, and her tenuous connection to her father started to unravel. Through arguments and laughter, tears and fried chicken, they fought to rebuild their relationship before it was too late. In Not Without My Father: One Woman’s 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez Trace, Watkins invites readers to join her dysfunctional family adventure in a humorous and heartbreaking memoir that asks if one can really turn I wish I had into I’m glad I did.
Pages: 219 pages
Publisher: Word Hermit Press (January 12, 2015)