Some losses easier to take

Published 1:51 am Saturday, October 11, 2008

Have you ever had anything you worked on extremely hard just disappear?

Several days ago, our daughter finished typing a long list for me on a computer program with which neither of us was familiar. She had plugged away at it for hours over a period of several days. When she finished, I went through the process to save it. The next day I tried to retrieve it. The more I looked, the more frustrated I got. After about an hour and a half of trying one way and then another, I finally brought it up. What a relief.

What could be more frustrating than spending all that time on a project and having it float away into outer space, never to be seen again? If you use a computer, it might have happened to you. And even if you don’t, just think back. Somehow things can just get lost or destroyed.

When Author John Steinbeck was working on Of Mice and Men, a puppy chewed up part of his manuscript. He didn’t even have a carbon copy of it to fall back on. It took him two months to rewrite what was lost.

There are other stories of famous authors who experienced the loss of their manuscripts through different circumstances. Ernest Hemingway’s wife had a suitcase containing some of his early works and the carbon copies of them stolen in Paris while she was on her way to visit him in Switzerland.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first novel never found its way to the publisher after he put it in the mail. Later, Doyle, the author of Sherlock Holmes, revealed that some of its content was not what he would have wanted in print. Although frustrating at the time, that loss evidently was to the good.

Those author losses reminded me of something that happened when I was in elementary school. One of my classmates stood up and told our teacher his little baby brother tore up his homework. Was his story true? Well, there was a baby in his family. It’s been so long ago I can’t remember the teacher’s reaction. Even if she believed him, he must have been shaking in his shoes when he told her.

Our daughter, a teacher, told us about a note one of her students found pushed back in a desk in her classroom. It read, “Mrs. Mott is an idot.” When she saw the handwriting on the note and the child who found the note showed her from which desk the note surfaced, she immediately knew who wrote it.

After everything came to light, the student’s mother made him write his teacher a letter of apology. (Even in his letter of apology, he used the word “idot” instead of “idiot,” the word he meant it to be.)

Maybe he was sorry he wrote that note, but he was probably even sorrier that somebody found it.