In today's excerpt--Charles Schulz, creator, author and illustrator for nearly fifty years of the cartoon strip Peanuts, which at its peak was read by over 300 million people:
"When called on to discuss his life, Charles 'Sparky' Schulz never began at the beginning, never with his birth, on November 26, 1922, or his early years, but always with his mother's death on March 1, 1943, his own departure for the war, and the merciless speed of it all: in that week, Dena Halverson Shulz had died on a Monday, she was buried Friday, and by Saturday the army had taken him away. ...
"As early as his sophomore year in high school, Sparky had come home to a bedridden mother. Some evenings she had been too ill to put food on the table; some nights he had been awakened by her cries of pain. But no one spoke directly about the affliction; only Sparky's father and his mother's trusted sister Marion knew its source, they would not identify it as cancer in Sparky's presence until after it had reached its fourth and final stage--in November 1942, the same month he was drafted.
"On February 28, 1943, with a day pass from Fort Snelling, Sparky returned from his army barracks to his mother's bedside. ... She was turned away from him in her bed against the wall, opposite the windows that overlooked the street. [Late that evening] he said he guessed it was time to go.
" 'Yes,' she said, 'I suppose we should say good-bye.'
"She turned her gaze as best she could. 'Well,' she said, 'good-bye, Sparky. We'll probably never see each other again.'
"Later he said, 'I'll never get over that scene as long as I live,' and indeed he could not, down to his own dying day. It was certainly the worst night of his life, the night of 'my greatest tragedy'--which he repeatedly put into the terms of his passionate sense of unfulfillment that his mother 'never had the opportunity to see me get anything published.' "
David Michaelis, Schulz and Peanuts, HarperCollins, Copyright 2007 by David Michaelis, pp. 4-5, xii.