The Bareassed Bookseller, Celia’s Story

Paul Winer’s life might seem like one continuous party–from poet to performer to peddler.   That is, except for one personal tragedy for him and his wife, Joanne.  Twenty years ago Paul finally became a father and opted for a more settled life and moved to Quartzsite, Arizona.

He decided to give up performing and the gig-chasing travel that goes with it.  Celia struggled to be born, three months early, I have an actual size picture of her footprint—it is smaller than my thumb.

At three months, her weight up to five pounds, she came home.  She grew to be a child who asked her mother to tell her stories from the book she read all the time—the bible.  By the time she learned to read she knew all the bible’s stories.  She loved to read and thought that there was nothing better than having a bookseller for a father who would let her roam the store and pick and chose and borrow at her whim.

At the age of eight and a half, Celia died.  Died of a hidden viral infection– undiscoverable and untreatable– that probably had been lurking on her heart for years.

I have no idea how anyone can deal with the loss of a child.  And I asked Paul how he managed.

“The town was very kind to us,” was his simple answer.

“Besides the outpouring of personal support, the town designated several acres of the community park.”

I visited the park and it has become much more than a memorial to Celia.  Over the years friends and neighbors built a natural trail and the whole area has become a memorial park.

There are dozens of plots marking memories.  Not with cubes of polished stone but with private personally crafted celebrations.

One of my most durable principles is that every door is worth opening to see what is behind it even if we think we know what to expect.  One thing we never expect to see is another door.  And we cannot know what lies behind that door.

It was a motorhome rally that drew me to Quartzsite, Arizona.  There I met a mountain man whose unfinished story called me back.  And as I cast about on my second visit, I encountered a naked man selling books.  And his fascinating story led me to a park unlike any I’d ever seen.

7 Responses to The Bareassed Bookseller, Celia’s Story

  1. David Bauer says:

    Losing a child is every parent’s worst night mare, and this story is an especially poignant one. I wonder about the medical issues surrounding the death. For example, our grandson Kellen was diagnosed with several heart defects when he was born, and the pediatric cardiologist at Oakland Children’s Hospital said that as recently as ten years ago the defects would not have been detected at birth. Thankfully at age two Kellen was able to have open heart surgery to correct the defects. He still is being monitored, and there is about a 5% chance that he will need another surgery later on in his life. The point is that at an earlier time, the type of defects that Kellen had may not have been detected and remained hidden until a major catastrophic event struck him as one happened to Celia. May God bless her soul.

  2. karen wittgraf says:

    From tragedy and sorrow, there is beauty and this is a perfect example of that.

    My heart goes out to Paul and I am sorry for his pain.

  3. Colleen Rae says:

    A beautiful, creative and dedicated garden to a much-loved child. It is always the most difficult to lose one’s child, especially a young child. I lost my son at 35. I had him for many years and I will always be grateful for that. But it is just as tramatic to lose a grown child as a young one. My heart goes out to Paul and Joanne.
    Thank you, Al for the lovely photographs. I don’t know if I ever told you I lost my son.

  4. Dave L says:

    A sensative telling, and I like the door allegory – most of us traverse a hall without them.

    Some edure horrendous pain and cruelty while others seem only to watch and attempt to understand. Cormac McCarthy postulates through a priest chatacter in The Crossing that his God is capable of terrrible things, and often it seems that is true – if one needs to believe. One can hope that sucb an experience is not permanent in its negative influence on the affected lives.

  5. Jeff Kingman says:

    I have woken up this Sunday morning to a sad but lovely post. Thank you, Al.

  6. David Pierce says:

    Wonderful story. Al now you must visit Yuma’s Valley of Names. Go to Google for a review. This is BLM Land that has been utilized for Remembrance.

  7. That was gorgeous AL. Thanks.

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