ABOUT THE STORY. . .
After the death of her father, Zella discovers his draft manuscript that explores the one addiction – alcohol – that controlled and poisoned many aspects of his life. The manuscript chronicles her Dad's struggle to keep the "addict" from the "alcoholic" over the last 28 years in sobriety with many reflections about his Native American culture including the "firewater" curse. His notes weave in memoirs from growing up off the reservation as the third of six brothers in a multiracial family, to hitting bottom in order to find sobriety, to earning trust and building friendships, to connecting to his heritage later in life, to valuing peace of mind and spirit and other experiences.
Struggling to move forward in her own life, Zella becomes convinced that she must complete his manuscript. She begins to interview their family, her Dad's surrogate "AA family" (see, http://www.aa.org), and others to understand how he worked to stay "high" on a clean and sober life by choice which helped him navigate his own "path of bliss". As she conducts further research and learns details about his choices, Zella notices conflicting information surrounding his death. Suspecting that her father might have been murdered, Zella reaches out for assistance from law enforcement authorities who delay investigating until they receive additional evidence from an anonymous source. When the source turns out to be a fallen recovering alcoholic, the district attorney orders the police to drop the investigation. Frustrated and out of options, Zella finds herself alone searching for the truth. The path is narrow, the terrain rough and rocky. And, the end of the journey puts Zella face-to-face with her Dad's murderer.
HERE'S WHAT SOME OF MY READERS SAID. . .
"This story changes how people think about addiction and gives the reader faith and hope that the human spirit prevails in adversity," Randy G.
"When are you finishing the book? I need you to finish yesterday so that I can give this to my kids." White Eagle
"I love BlissPath! Very creative. . . I think a lot of this happens all the time, but no one talks about it." Kelly M.
SELECTED draft PASSAGE FROM THE AUTHOR. . .
Attending her father’s Sioux burial ceremony, Zella keeps thinking the same thoughts over and over. It starts with vivid memories of her Dad’s excitement about attending his first “AA” meetings which he described as a “rebirth”. And, then her thoughts transition to various times when she felt challenged by his new life, like when he showed up at her college dorm “preaching AA” to all of her roommates who were damned to jail or the streets or else working their way to their deathbed. That was her Dad – then. And she remembers so many things that make her heart swell, like when he showed up at her house to declare that he was taking care of his grandchildren so that she could get some sleep. Those particular memories make her feel so much love and reminds her how protected she felt, kind of like when her Grandmother would describe how animals feel peaceful and protected under the cover of the tree branches at night and easily fall asleep. After all those good memories, she starts to feel angry about him drinking again and dying. She wonders why he stopped taking his “daily medicine”. What would he say, "because it was easy?" That’s not a real answer. So, she tries again to figure it out, but can’t. Then her mind goes through it all again.
Startled by someone squeezing her hand, Zella realizes that it’s time for her to talk. She begins by thanking her uncles, cousins and other family for sharing in the ritual known as Nagi Gluhapi Na Nagi Gluxkapi or the Keeping of the Soul. Her Dad always said that he liked living but he also looked forward to when he crossed over into the realm of the Great Spirit because he believed that he would know "everlasting peace". That thought gave him much comfort.
Knowing it's important to honor his life by sharing memories during the ritual, Zella tells them about the first few times her Dad brought her to the reservation. He wanted Zella to learn more about their culture and lineage and hoped she might want to honor some of the traditions, like the ritual of Inipi ("to live again") or the Rite of Purification. As she stumbles through her memories, Zella can’t help but remember how much she looked forward to their conversations during those road trips.
Not realizing that she’s trailed off and re-directed her words to her father, Zella asks “Do you remember how we used to make fun of the billboard campaigns that lined the highway into the reservation?”
“One of our favorites was a billboard with a couple of people. Do you remember? The first person said something like ‘Mind if I smoke?’ and the other person said ‘Care if I die?’ ” Zella paused. “We joked around because the suicide prevention signs were right after, including the one about being with you 'every step of the way'. With those series of billboards, we joked about how there must be a lot of smoking in Indian country. And, you reminded me that the people who put the campaign together must not have known that the Indians introduced the peace pipe. When I look back to that trip, I remember that you were only a few years into sobriety and were so enthusiastic about so many possibilities. It was your rebirth and you let the world know it. But, you also worried so much about how my life might turn out if I made mistakes and were constantly telling me not to drink and not to get pregnant and not to do anything crazy. It's ok, because I get it now. Anyway, back then, I was younger and thought it would be clever to ad lib, so I started asking you all the time ‘Mind if I drink?’ and you would always say back ‘Care if I die?’ I guess that was me preaching back at you.”
“Dad, the ironic part is that we never actually answered those questions because I thought we knew the answers,” Zella’s tears were streaming down her cheeks, “and, even though I didn’t show it, I always believed that when you got sober, you saved your life. And, you probably saved a lot of other peoples' lives.”
"So, what happened to taking your 'daily medicine'?", then Zella stopped talking and the tears took over.