Thank You, ‘Papa.’

The tributes are coming hard and fast, spilling over in adoration and love.

Just as it should be.

But it doesn’t seem to quell the fact that I thought he’d live forever. After all, Mr. Electrico dubbed it so.

Ray Bradbury was a ‘Papa’ to me. Not a literary Hemingway papa as Ernest was often called, though for different reasons. No, I called Mr. Bradbury Papa in the same way Steven Spielberg called him that. After Ray told Steven that ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ was the greatest film of the genre, Steven remarked that he wouldn’t have made the film if it weren’t for ‘It Came From Outer Space’ a film based on Bradbury’s story. Then, as the story goes, Steven said, “Are you still my Papa?” And Ray smiled, nodding, “Yes, I’m still your Papa.” Meaning, that we all sat at his storytelling knee, weaned on his imagination and metaphors, enraptured with his lyricism as we fell headlong into his stories.

A friend came to me once and said he was going to a convention where Bradbury was the guest of honor and that he might have the chance to speak to him personally, and did I want him to say anything for me? My mind scrambled and I pulled out a sheet of paper and wrote, ‘Thank you for being my Papa. And thank you for giving me back my home town in the form of Green Town.’ And gave it to my friend, saying, “…if you get a chance, give this to him.” My friend returned a week later and said he had something for me. Apparently he did have the chance to talk with Bradbury briefly and told him about my love of his work and gave him my sheet of paper. Dan, my friend, handed the paper back to me, smiling. On it, was written, Dear John, No—thank you!! Ray Bradbury.

It’s framed over my desk as I write this.

Ray’s writing took us to Mars, alongside a fire chief torn about his duty to burn books, to a African Veldt that came alive in our living room, and washed us in the golden glow of endless summers in a small Midwestern town that we all immediately recognized.

My own writing sparks from the small town in Oregon where I grew up. But it wasn’t until I read Bradbury and discovered the sheer joy he took in his writing, that I felt I was allowed to write about the wonder of my childhood, the town I grew-up in and the bright flame that burned in my own imagination. He gave me that. And I will forever be grateful.

He’s gone now, but not really. His intensity of joy and wonder will always make his books pop off the shelves. He invites us in and regardless if the tale is horror, science fiction, fantasy or mystery, he never concludes before leaving a waft of hopefulness and an air of wonder.

I’m so grateful to have discovered him in my lifetime. And he will live forever, as I’m turning to him now to take another stroll through Green Town, letting him show me the sights I already know but yearn to see again.

Thank you, Papa, for giving us your words.

For giving us you.

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