August 6, 2001
Repaying a debt of gratitude
by Deborah Stone
At the age of 34 Jonathon Eide had a dynamic professional life as co-owner of a successful Seattle sales and marketing firm and an equally satisfying personal life. He owned his own home and had recently become engaged. He enjoyed an active lifestyle and looked forward to a future filled with years of prosperity and comfort.
"Everything was going my way," says Eide, "and then God presented me with an incredible challenge, one that I hadn't expected nor was prepared to handle at that time. I didn't know then that it would benefit me in so many ways and serve as an incredibly valuable experience, one that would always be with me."
The challenge for this Bothell man came in the form of a familial call to tend to his rapidly ailing father, a man who had been stricken with a debilitating illness and essentially abandoned by his second wife.
For nearly six years, Eide took care of his dad, devoting his time, energy and resources to assuring that his dad received the care he deserved. The price for this loyalty and devotion was costly in terms of Eide's emotional and financial losses, but as a result of these sacrifices, he learned lessons in humanity that would forever change his life.
Eide's account of these years is detailed in his novel entitled "Orphaned at 39," a compassionate soul-baring story that is also educational in its content.
The book was recently published by 1st Books Library and it is currently available via the Internet through various major booksellers' online services.
Eide had entertained thoughts of writing a book about his experience following his father's death in 1995, but it wasn't until two years later that he became motivated to embark on the project.
He says, "I had recently moved to Bothell and at a neighborhood get-together one night, I mentioned my idea to one of my neighbors, Joanne McDaniel. She was very interested in hearing about it and said that she wanted to read my book when I wrote it. Joanne really inspired me and the next day I began writing.
When I had written several chapters, I gave them to her and she responded with positive feedback, which kept me going. Her feedback along the way has been so valuable and helpful to me."
The first manuscript of the book took about six months to write. Eide wanted to tell his account in story form, but include textbook information to share with others who might be dealing with a similar situation or preparing to take on the care of an elderly family member.
"It was very important to me that the book wasn't in a textbook style and that it flowed like a story," explains Eide. "I wanted to offer suggestions and information that could help people, but do it in such a way that it wasn't like a manual. More importantly, I wanted readers to experience my story and get a good picture of the people involved."
After completing the manuscript, Eide shopped around for a publisher. He didn't want to relinquish his rights to the story, as it was important to him for the account to remain true to his words. He eventually settled on a joint equity project deal, which is basically a shared situation between author and publisher.
"When I finally got an editor, the process got rolling and then the work really began," comments Eide. "There were rewrites and changes and lots of editing, as well as decisions on cover design, photos within the book, quotations to insert, etc. I really was totally naive about this process, being a first time author, but it has been a great learning experience for me."
Eide's knowledge of the publishing world and of the nuts and bolts of writing a book came in addition to what can be referred to as "the greater lessons in life."
Through the years of taking care of his father, he learned about friendship, patience and compassion and today he feels that he is a changed man.
He says, "I learned who my friends were during this time and who failed me. This was a revelation to me and shocking on some accounts. Some people I thought I could depend on for understanding and assistance didn't come through for me when I needed them. Others were wonderfully helpful and were there for me throughout the experience. I saw human nature from both sides. I also gained an insight into the plight of the elderly in this country. When I would visit my father in the nursing home, I would see so many of the residents who never seemed to have any family members visit them. No one ever bothered to check on them and see if they were receiving good care. It seems like there are many abandoned elderly, emotionally abandoned, as well as physically, and the saying 'out of sight, out of mind' sadly rings true here. My experience certainly taught me to be more patient and compassionate of the elderly and that's something I really tried to get across in my book. It's so important that people understand that when their parents get older and their health fails, they really need care. They are not to be blamed for their condition. It is out of their control. The roles are reversed now and caring for an elderly parent should be viewed as an opportunity to repay a debt."
Eide's father had cared and nurtured him as a child and as a young man, always there to dispense advice, as well as give him unconditional love. He was his mentor, his coach and his friend, inspiring him to seek challenges and live a vigorous life. "He was my beacon of thought and wisdom," explains Eide.
It was now Eide's turn to repay the huge debt of gratitude he owed to his dad. "When my father passed away," comments Eide, "I had such mixed feelings. I was relieved on one hand because I knew his suffering was over, but I was very sad; sad because he was gone, but also sad when I realized that I was actually an orphan at 39 years old. It was a terrible feeling to wake up one day and realize that both my parents were gone (Eide's mother died when he was 14 of cardiac arrest following surgery to repair the damage from a cranial aneurysm) and that I was truly alone. I miss my parents each and every day, but I am comforted knowing that I did the right thing for my father. I did what I had to do to make sure that he got the care he deserved. Taking care of him was my calling and I responded." Eide has been bitten by the writer's bug and is now planning his next project, which he thinks will be a murder mystery. He already has a plot in mind and is busy reading classic mysteries to gain an understanding of the genre's form. He says, "I usually only read biographies and non-fiction books, but I think doing a mystery will be a fun challenge for me and I have this great idea for a plot." And so, Eide moves on with his life, knowing that although he is an orphan, he will always have the spirit of his parents within him, inspiring him to live life fully.