Tennessee Valentine, part 2
If you are one of the people who have written or asked about what I knew about David's love life, this post will disappoint. By the end, I hope you'll be fine with that.
The last post was about someone who--out of nowhere--wrote to me about reading Pluck. She loved it, she said, but thought something was missing; it needed to tell a bit more about David Schnaufer and what he was like in a romantic relationship. She added that she would tell me because she was the inspiration for his song, Tennessee Valentine.
I was curious about what she had to say, so we met. Over the past few months she has shared a number of stories as well as photos and documents with me that convinced me that she was who she said she was. I agreed to write to fill in a bit of that missing part of David. But while I no longer questioned who she was, I did begin to have a faint, nagging feeling as I worked through three drafts of a Blog post about the topic. That feeling was that I should. not. do. this.
I learned a great deal of personal information about David throughout the course of the research, and always stayed mindful of his well-known reticence; he picked and chose what to share and with whom at each stage of his life. Writing his story was an enormous responsibility; early on, I decided which lines that I wouldn't cross.
Blog drafts of Tennessee Valentine, Part 2, turned into three, careful drafts, with a fourth final draft expected after the Valentine would proof the third. Writing each draft was like walking a tightrope: What could and should I share to fulfill her wish that people knew just a little of that side of him? What would be the bare minimum in order to give a glimpse of a man and woman in love without violating either's right to keep intimate things to themselves?
Our agreement was this: I would allow her to edit anything within the post that seemed to violate her privacy. It was very important to me not to "out" her; if she wanted others to know who she was, that would be her responsibility. And I offered to withdraw the post completely if she changed her mind about revealing their relationship. Their relationship was not a necessary component in the biography itself; it neither supported nor detracted from my thesis as far as I was concerned.
My responsibility would be to make a final decision on whether to share what I learned and wrote.
However, those nagging feelings kept growing. When she emailed to say she had changed her mind, I confess I was relieved. Here is a story about why I was relieved:
When I was a kid living in Chicago, my dad would take my sister and me to rural Kentucky every summer to visit his relatives, and we would stay with his aunt and uncle on their farm. A little ways down their dirt road, there was a creek that I used to love to play in. I would hunt for the numerous geodes that the rains had washed down from the hills; as the rushing water tumbled and rolled them here and there, they settled in places scattered throughout the creek. The geodes were pretty plain on the outside after being worn smooth by the tumbling across time. A little hard to find. Every time I did find them and cracked them open, the inside was like a miniature cave full of tiny crystal stalactites and stalagmites. My seven-year-old self used to think of them as diamonds because they would glitter in sunlight. To my eyes, they were very rare and precious.
I know David's Valentine treasures her own memories. My hope for her is that these memories, tumbled and tossed through time, help her feel secure in the knowledge that her inner diamond sparkles that pulled him toward her are best left be for her alone to savor. I'm good with that, and I hope you are, too.