Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Friday, July 10, 2015

Meeting Jack London's Daughter, Afterword

Joan (Left) and Becky London
I met Becky London in mid-July 1990. She would live only two more years. Joan, her older sister by a year, had died back in 1971 only three days after her 70th birthday. I learned somewhere along the way that Joan, who had been an academic, had spoken at Hiram College, my alma mater,  The clipping is from the Hiram College newspaper, Feb. 14, 1929 (my mother was nine years old).

A follow-up story on Feb. 25 was headlined: London Lecture Is Entertaining. She had spoken about her father's life (he'd been dead only thirteen years). She ended the evening by reading aloud one of her father's stories (which one?), an activity, says the Hiram writer, that "rounded out an evening of keen pleasure."

Becky's death in 1992 was big news in Sonoma County, as the news clip below illustrates. And her death was the final in London's short list of immediate family.

As I wrote in the initial post in this series a few days ago, the summer of 1990 would be a very trying one for my own family. Our only child was heading off to college in the fall; Joyce's parents were failing--and fast. When we got a "long weekend" from class, I drove up to Seaside, Oregon, where my own declining parents were living in a new retirement home. When I called Joyce at home, I learned that things had gotten much worse. She needed help. So I left everything in California and flew home immediately to do what I could. Her father was dying of a fierce lung cancer; her mother's Alzheimer's had made her impossible to care for. We tried it. And failed. We eventually found a wonderful place for her--at Anna Maria in Aurora, the town where I'd been teaching since 1966.

After we got things marginally under control, I flew back to California to pick up my things and arrange for everything to be shipped home--including our car, a blue Toyota Tercel lift-back that was never the same afterwards. I had to leave the Jack London Seminar, and I was sad about that, but I knew I was needed elsewhere. And Earle Labor, my teacher, was extraordinarily helpful and cooperative.

And so we were with Joyce's beloved father as he died; weeping, we put our son on a plane to college; we helped Joyce's mother adjust to her new place; we bought a house in Aurora so that we would be closer to her. It was a wrenching time--among the most difficult of our lives. A summer of loss and grief and transition.

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