The New Story Is: The Healing Power of Stories with Wade Rouse
Content warning: This episode briefly mentions attempted suicide.
Wade Rouse was a self-described queer kid growing up feeling like an outsider in his rural, conservative, Ozarks community in 1970s Missouri—and, in his own family.
Wade’s newest book is Magic Season: A Son’s Story, a memoir that details Wade’s relationship with his hardline, old fashioned, and rather unforgiving father throughout his life, including Wade’s journey to find healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation before his dad’s death.
As a USA TODAY, Publishers Weekly, and international bestselling author, Wade has published 13 books, including four memoirs and nine novels, to leverage storytelling of both fiction and nonfiction varieties to help himself discover healing—while modeling what it takes for readers, too, to find healing in the stories of their own lives.
Wade’s books have been selected as Must-Reads by NBC’s Today Show.
His writing has appeared in Coastal Living, Time, All Things Considered, People, Good Housekeeping, Parade, Salon, Forbes, Writer’s Digest, and more.
In this interview, Wade shares…
- How baseball, a sport he was forced to play, grew on him and gave him a language to connect with his dad
- Why “remember and reconcile” may be a better path for some of us than “forgive and forget”
- The power of accessing his inner world through journaling, writing, and storytelling
Thank you to Wade for joining us on The New Story Is!
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Dave Ursillo 00:13
Hello and welcome to The New Story Is! My name is Dave Ursillo. I am the founder of The New Story Company and the host of this podcast.
Dave Ursillo 00:21
The New Story Is is a podcast that explores the shared stories and narratives that shape our time. And those that influence how we understand our places in the world, in relationship to one another. Plenty of the stories that shape our lives help us for the better. They teach us how to live, how to love how to be kind to one another.
Dave Ursillo 00:40
But many stories, as I’m sure you will know, dear listener can affect us for the worse stories that we might learn as we grow up. Sometimes those stories that are told by us by those whom we love, and those whom we rely on and trust to take care of us can actually make us feel lost, feel like outsiders, or feel less than worthy of love or acceptance. In many ways. As we grow older, it tends to become each of our own responsibility to face these stories in the journey of knowing who we truly are. Our guest today has faced many stories like these as a 13th time author, a longtime writer, and journaler and a professional storyteller whose work has spanned both fiction and nonfiction.
Dave Ursillo 01:23
I am so excited today to be joined by Wade Rouse, he’s a USA Today, Publishers Weekly an international best selling author. He’s Written four memoirs in nine novels, and he’s got more books on the way later this year. In his work, we’d stories which are based both on his own life experiences and those that he’s imagined. help readers shed the stories that do not serve them while also intimately exploring and even rewriting the stories of who we truly know ourselves to be. In his career. Wade’s books have been selected as must reads by NBC is today’s show. They’ve been featured in The Washington Post and on Chelsea Lately with Chelsea Handler. His writing has appeared in publications and media like Coastal Living time, all things considered on NPR people good housekeeping parade, salon forms Writer’s Digest, and more. It’s a long list.
Dave Ursillo 02:20
Wade joins us today to discuss his latest book. It’s called Magic season a son’s story. Magic season is a memoir that chronicles Wade’s experience growing up and struggling to garner his father’s approval, as well as finding his own voice and his identity as a young self described queer kid growing up in a conservative Ozarks community in Missouri. Despite their vast differences, Wade and his father remain bonded and still somehow able to communicate and understand one another through a shared love of America’s pastime baseball and their mutual love of their hometown team. The St. Louis Cardinals magic season details Wade’s relationship with his hardline old fashioned and rather unforgiving father throughout his life, including Wade’s journey to find healing, forgiveness and reconciliation before his dad’s death. Wade, welcome to The New Story Is thank you so much for being here. I can’t I’ve been looking forward to speaking with you now for some time. I really enjoyed your book, and welcome to the show.
Wade Rouse 03:23
Thank you. And thank you for having me, I have to say, great introduction. I love what you’re doing and what you’re saying. I mean, that is vitally important to all of us.
Dave Ursillo 03:32
Thank you so much wait. And I think that’s a great place to start. Because I’m really curious, I do want to get into your book and talk about your memoir and your relationship with your dad and so much more. But as in a prolific writer and author. I’m really curious about your experiences in writing both fiction and nonfiction. I’m curious about what these two genres have done for you as a person and as a creative as well as as a professional. Could you tell us a little bit about what you’ve valued about writing both fiction and nonfiction throughout your career?
Yeah, that’s a great question. Because I get that a lot. You know, we’re two very different hats, you know, writing nonfiction under my own name, and then contemporary women’s fiction, under my grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, as a pen name, you know, a lot of people think I throw on a wig and a house coat and turn it into Viola. That’s how it all happens. foundationally every book I write, every story I tell are the same. You know, they’re rooted in family. And always a big question, I think, as a writer and the soul that I’m wrestling with that I want to answer and that I think that you know, readers and folks are kind of grappling with as well. So that kind of always guides me and why and what I want to write about you know, it’s it’s interesting because I started out I you know, growing up in the Ozarks, I’m way older than you I grew up loving, a writer named Erma Bombeck, who was a big humorist of kind of the household and family in the 1970s.
Wade Rouse 05:13
And her column appeared in our, our weekly paper. And I was always fascinated by how she wrote, so humorously about the little things in life, no family and going to the post office and getting their kids to school. And my grandmother, both of my grandmother’s were working poor, but I would always say the way they laugh or smile when they’d read her. And it resonated with me. And I always thought, My gosh, if I could do that, if I could write something that would not only make people smile, but think what a gift that would be. So she kind of guided me early on, I’ve evolved a lot since that, but um, she was very transformational and, and why I wanted to write the stories I do. And that’s no, any story, right? It’s always about the minute moments in life that are deeply personal, but universally connected, those things that we can all write relate to.
Wade Rouse 06:06
And I think writing both you know, I started writing for humorous memoirs, moved into fiction, which was a bear to write in the beginning. But I think writing both has made me a better, much better writer overall, because I’ve learned from, from one voice to the other end, and I’m excited to both continuing forward.
Dave Ursillo 06:33
Yeah, absolutely. And I do want to loop back around as our conversation goes on to maybe ask you a little bit more about what it’s been like to write under a pen name, which can be really empowering, really liberating for a lot of writers. And I’m curious about how it’s been writing under a pen name of a woman, but also in homage to your grandmother. And I’m really curious about that creative process.
Dave Ursillo 06:54
But of course, we’re here primarily talk about magic season. And there’s so much to talk about, there’s so much to ask you. So I feel like it’d be doing you a disservice if we didn’t start there. So maybe we can start with the beginning because you mentioned growing up in a small Ozarks community, for those of us who are maybe geographically challenged and to choose as a as a you know, like a coast in East Coast, elitist liberal like I am, maybe you can help to educate me and maybe some of our listeners about where the Ozarks is located geographically in the Midwest and where you grew up.
It is the heart of of the United States. We call it the heartland, but it really is you’re right smack dab in the middle. So I grew up in southwest Missouri, literally within spitting distance of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas, kind of in what we call the Four Corners region right down there. And I was born in 1965. So really grew up in the 1970s in rural America. You know, I always say everybody’s seen the TV show Ozark they candy coated that what? No, it was much rougher, and much tougher and much more isolated, especially for a gay kid in the 1970s. You know, there were no role model role models, there were no words to say, what I was feeling or how I was. And so it was really, really difficult, you know, Ozarks kids, you know, especially boys are, you know, I don’t mean to stereotype them all, but they’re rough and tumble, you know, they hunt and they fish and they play sports, and they go mutton and their trucks and where, you know, didn’t go boots and wranglers and all the things that I didn’t do, you know, I like to read and bake with my grandmother’s in their kitchen, and we’re a little ascots that they made me right and journal.
Wade Rouse 08:56
And so that’s just you know, that’s putting a target right on the middle of my head. So it was not easy to grow up there in the 1970s because there was no way to express what I was feeling or to connect with anyone in some way about what I was going through. So it was deeply isolating. The wonderful thing was that I I had a crazy mother that I write a lot about who was way ahead of her time you know, studied world religion. In an area full on Southern Baptists, you know, where you couldn’t, couldn’t drink or dance. And my mother taught me that it was she was a nurse and a hospice nurse. She taught me it was okay to be different and to believe in my uniqueness. And that really, along with my grandmother’s love kind of set me apart and helped help keep me going.
Dave Ursillo 09:50
Yeah, that’s really beautiful. And you do mention in the early chapters of magic season where you describe how like feeling different feeling like an outsider in your community. As you mentioned, you know how a lot of kids in the Ozarks grow up, you said that in your book that learning how to hunt made you physically sick. And while you were forced into playing sports because quote, unquote, that’s what you know, young men did. Growing up in those days, you would prefer to be alone, you prefer to learn how to cook with your mother, your grandmother, like you said, or playing outside in the woods exploring, I think you mentioned talking talk preferring to talk to rabbits rather than hunt them and try to shoot them.
Dave Ursillo 10:29
And so in this, in this context, in this environment, we’re introduced to the figure of your father, who is many things and maybe you can tell us a little bit about him in the context of this book and how we meet him. But of all the things that he is you return to describing him as, as the chemical engineer that he was, and you described yourself as an equation that he could never seem to figure out? I’m wondering how early in your life, you made that connection, or felt like your dad was trying to, like, fix you or solve you? Was there a point that you realize it? Or is it like, from from so young, that you couldn’t even distinguish, like when it began, if you will?
Say, you know, I think it was, you just you stick out like a sore thumb, you know, when the Ozarks in the 70s, if you’re not following, you know, the rest of the sheep, it was, it was very difficult. And I never did that. I didn’t do that. From the beginning. I think my father obviously knew, and I knew very early, but there was no way to put that into context, if that makes sense. You know, we just there was no language for any of that, you know, I write in the in magic season about a real seminal moment where my dad tried to teach me to play baseball, and I, you know, just didn’t come naturally, you know, the glove didn’t work on my hand, or the ball would just say, oh, you know, there are pictures of me Polaroids and the balls just sailing over my head time and time again. And I’m like, What do you folks gonna stop this?
Wade Rouse 11:59
And he said, to me, you’ll never learn how to play baseball, and you’ll never be a real man. And that’s what it was in the Ozarks. This, this, this, this concept and idea of what a real man was, and what he did. And I confounded my father because I fit and in none of those things, you know, I didn’t even in school studying things I wanted to write I wanted to major in communications or journalism is all the things that my was my dad once said, you know, you’re never gonna make a damn cent communicate. And what does that what does that mean? It just couldn’t quantify me or my life.
Wade Rouse 12:36
And it was, it was hard, you know, because all any kid really wants his his father’s or parents acceptance and unconditional love. That’s all you want growing up. And when you know, it’s when you know, it’s not there, when you can feel it in your soul. No matter how early it’s, it lingers, and it sticks with you and makes you feel less than and unwanted and undeserving of love. And, you know, that set a pattern in my life that was hard and very destructive for a long, long time.
Dave Ursillo 13:14
Yeah, and I’m wondering about the role of writing both. Again, we talked to fiction and nonfiction, but specifically as a nonfiction writer, as a memoir, writer, you know, the genre of, of memoir is so fascinating to me, because I love nonfiction work. And I consider myself a nonfiction writer. I’ve never Written memoir. But memoir specifically is really interesting, because I feel like it’s a vessel for taking a specific lens on a trajectory of the past, like through your memories, and almost like re litigating the experience, not for the sake of purely reliving it, but meaning making along the way. That’s why I think it’s such an interesting and fascinating genre of storytelling.
Dave Ursillo 13:57
And I’m curious about if writing throughout your, your younger years, especially when provided you this outlet of self knowledge of personal learning and growth, full disclosure, this is like this kind of like my religion is, is like personal writing to understand the self. So I don’t want to force you into that box. If, if that wasn’t the case for you. But I am curious about because it seems like you had such a rich inner world as a young person. If writing specifically or just other other practices or experiences of your inner world, like you mentioned, learning how to bake and cook gave you an outlet through which you could start to know what felt like your true self.
Dave Ursillo 14:39
Maybe if you didn’t even have the language for that, despite getting these really toxic reinforcing ideas and stories placed upon you that like you weren’t a quote unquote, real man or you never would be or you were, you were different and felt like an outsider. How did you access your inner world? And did writing have a role with that? Or is it something that just kind of develop later in life?
Kind of that’s a great question and stop me because I could go in a million different directions and talk forever on that point, because it’s true. You know, I always describe memoir writing, as you’re going on a long hike, I winter in Palm Springs can hike a lot, and you’re going on a long hike, and you put on a backpack, but what can you pack in that backpack, that’s essential to get you to the top of the peak, you know, there’s only certain elements that you can put in that that are essential for the trip. And that’s same for hiking, and is the same, exactly the same for a writer, you know, you can only put in exactly what you need.
Wade Rouse 15:42
So that’s always how I kind of look at, at at memoir writing. But growing up, you know, I think I started when, at the kind of the, at the feet of my mother and my grandmother’s, you know, it was part and parcel growing up with them. And their sewing rooms, and then their kitchens, where I saw that they were creating, you know, I watched my grandmother’s bake, they had sewing rooms with these big singing Singer sewing machines. And, you know, when they would so for instance, they would take disparate scraps and and weave them into something beautiful, which is what I still do today. But I saw through them at an early age that they were actually telling stories of their lives and their families through through these acts. You know, it could be pulling an old recipe card from a recipe box and baking a treasured family dessert, or it could be quilting, whatever it was, they were pulling something together that kind of told the story of of family that could and might last forever.
Wade Rouse 16:55
And that’s what writing was for me. You know, I remember a big moment. And in middle school, where I tried out for a talent contest. And I sang Delta Dawn, if you remember that the Tanya Tucker version and held a faded Rose and I got heckled off stage. And my mom and grandma were waiting backstage and they gave me a copy of Erma Bombeck book at wit’s end. And they gave me a writing journal and said, perhaps this is how I would make sense in my life. And that’s how I started writing was, I would journal and write every single day, just about life for what was happening, or, you know, an embarrassment or something beautiful that I saw in the woods, that whatever it was, and that started to make me believe that this makes sense in myself, because, you know, we all are gifted this incredible voice, you know, as artists and writers especially.
Wade Rouse 17:57
And it’s all we’ve got, this is all we’ve got, from here to hear, is all we have, and yet we spend hours, especially when we don’t fit in, we spend our lives trying to lose that because we just want to be like everyone else. We just want to be accepted and fed in. So we spend our childhoods and our lives trying to bury that voice because we don’t want to be different. It’s weird to be different. And yet, that was my saving grace was knowing that getting this down, there was something real and authentic about what I was feeling. And that moved me at an early age. It made me laugh, or it made me cry. And that kind of always kept me centered.
Dave Ursillo 18:39
It’s wonderful that your your mother, your grandmother, and I’m not sure if it’s both your grandmother’s who you had relationships with was it just was it just the the one weight or was it what did you have both grandmothers in your life?
Actually both my I was very close to my mother’s mom because she just lived over a you know, a hill from me, but I was very close to my dad’s mother as well. She was a seamstress, too. And they had a cabin that I spent I write a lot about that i i grew up spending a childhood summer sense of very close to both.
Dave Ursillo 19:11
Yeah, well, it’s just wonderful that you also had the support from others in your life who were able to encourage you and give you these outlets of, of self knowledge. But taking it back to to the memoir at hand of magic season and I’m sure we’ll we’ll get back into talking about your mother and grandmothers as well.
Dave Ursillo 19:30
I’m wondering if we could establish for the listeners who haven’t read your book yet, a little bit about your father by perhaps telling us a story that the one I’m thinking of specifically that stands out from reading your book is when you were a young kid, and you found yourself caught in a strong current in the river. You called out for your father who was on the shore and what his reactions were maybe this this might be just an example that kind of establishes for our listener what the relationship was like, at least when it started when you were young.
Yeah, and his, I think his, you know, his belief of what a real man was, yeah, my mom had, you know, for that wasn’t really a country club, we joined in the Ozarks, but it was it had a pool and a place where you could get launched in a nine hole golf course. And I was in swim lessons and my father came in literally pulled me out of the pool, you know, saying the boy don’t need fancy, and took me down to our cabin. And with a six pack of beer and literally threw me into the Swift moving Creek, it was called Sugar Creek, which ran high and, you know, and after heavy rains, and didn’t make a move to to save me to teach me anything to help me at all, he just pretty much laughed as I was swept downstream. And, you know, I, I fought like hell to try and swim back to shore and save myself. And when it was over, my dad, you know, just essentially said, Stop all your cat or Wallan son, you know, here’s, here’s a drink of my beer, it did it. And I kind of juxtapose that with, you know, being an adult and being in northern Michigan, in a resort town where the, or the salmon run every, every fall up, up stream. And comparing myself to that, you know, I never really like them. I never really learned how to swim, I just learned how to survive.
Wade Rouse 21:26
You know, I just was paddling as hard as I could my entire life, against every force of nature, where I grew up, you know, so environmental, to try and live. I just never really learned how, how, how to swim well, and life. And I think that’s, like so many of us, you know, we are. So I love to write both genres. You know, I always like to write what I call ghosts on our shoulders, you know, all of those things that are in the past that make us who we are today, it’s, it’s the past that’s done it, it’s all the things that have happened to us and how we have and haven’t coped with that that have made us who we are, and why we are the way we are.
Wade Rouse 22:09
And in writing nonfiction, that’s how I tried to look at my father to, you know, it’s a memoir, where when I write nonfiction, I try not to blame I tried to understand because of those ghosts, and why did my dad become the man he was? Um, what was it in his past? You know, same for me, did I become the man I was because of my dad, or in spite of him? Or was it both? So that’s, you know, my dad was an, the most emotional, non emotional man you’ve ever known. I mean, if you know a true country, man, a true Ozarks man, where words do not come easily, where you can express anything where any emotion you deal with by clicking off a Cardinals game, that’s not going the right way. Or you drink another beer to kind of bury all that you’re feeling that would that was my dad. And that’s a, that it’s a bad ending, you know, it’s going it’s going to come out and explode in the worst possible ways at moments.
Dave Ursillo 23:16
Yeah, and so in, despite the differences in your personalities, and how your father seems to have not only misunderstood you from a young age, but also kind of thrust, his ideas of like what manhood is and how someone should be in the environment in which you were growing up.
Dave Ursillo 23:36
You found as you detail in magic season, that despite your strained relationship, you know, for many years, that there was still this mutual respect and appreciation of baseball, which gave you something to bond through. But it also seems like baseball gave you a shared sense of language for even loosely or indirectly understanding one another. When did it become clear to you that baseball was something that you and your father both held as meaningful, despite the issues that you experienced in your relationship throughout your life?
You’re at a very early age, you know, I did from my dad couldn’t teach me how to play baseball. I would walk into the house and kind of stand in the shadows and watch him watching or listening to a to a St. Louis Cardinals game. And when he would do that, he’d always pat the end of the couch for the dog to join him. And I kind of just watched him watching. Just because I wanted his approval or his attention. I wanted them to invite me in some way. And over, over the course of just doing that I truly became interested in the game of baseball, you know, it’s a thinking man’s game. It hasn’t changed that much over the course of time.
Wade Rouse 24:55
And my dad early on, as I write in the book, said to me, you know, it’s the games like life, it’s the tiny decisions ending to ending that make the final score in the end. And that was how I always looked at our relationship. And it really did it be, you know, I call it our love language. You know, we didn’t talk for a long time much about our lives. But we could talk about baseball, we could talk about famous Cardinals players like Keith Hernandez and Lou Brock. And, you know, Bob for Chanel rebel ski. And there is something, as I’ve learned getting so many emails already, especially from straight men, and readers across the country, is that sports are an incredible uniter. You know, men often cannot and do not express emotion.
Wade Rouse 25:47
But if they’re watching a game together or attending a game, or they’re playing golf, whatever it may be, there’s a shared experience there, despite not really talking about anything deep within, they’re still together, and something is happening between them. And that’s what happened to my dad. And I think over the course of time, finally, the baseball transferred to life, and we were able to start talking and sharing stories. And that’s where I began to understand how he became Ted Rouse and why it was so hard for him. And, you know, baseball, saved our men, in many ways saved our relationship, you know, I write about when I came out to my father, he did not talk to me for two years, he wrote me a horrific letter saying, you know, I was gonna burn in hell and I would lose my job and all my friends and you know, I’d been coerced. In a back alley by by an older man, you know, even though my husband’s younger than I am. And he just, he, it was all environmental, and he had no idea what he was talking about. And at that time, I had to walk away because the hurt was so much money, you know, he wounded me so deeply.
Wade Rouse 27:03
But when Mark McGwire for the Cardinals had a 70th home run, and broke the baseball record, my dad called me on the phone. And he said, you know, his apology was, he didn’t do it alone. It takes a team. And to me, that was my father’s first apology and first step back to loving me and understanding who I was, and also getting to know my husband, Gary, and loving him at the end deeply. But it took a took baseball as a way to make that happen. And that took a long time, but I’m thankful it did.
Dave Ursillo 27:39
Yeah. Well, you mentioned in in new detail in great detail and magic season. You recount coming out to your mother first. And then to your father, you mentioned in the book, as you just mentioned now, this is pretty heinous and hurtful letter that your father sent you. He said he wasn’t much for letters to begin with.
Dave Ursillo 27:58
And the things that were contained in that letter were really cruel, fulfilling a lot of like misunderstandings about human sexuality and homosexuality. And then as you mentioned, as you mentioned, he finally calls you not to apologize two years later, but but through baseball through the St. Louis Cardinals through Mark McGwire who infamously broke the homerun record, I think in 1998, is that right? Yeah.
Wade Rouse 28:28
Dave Ursillo 28:31
Yeah, I remember I am old enough to remember to remember the homerun record Chase? Do you think way that you and your father would have found peace would have had this the second chance that you detail throughout your book to establish some semblance of peace and healing without the shared language, the mutual love the backdrop of baseball?
Dave Ursillo 28:57
Or did you do you feel like your relationship was rather dependent on having like you said, that kind of like, the bond that many men even straight men might feel of like, having something that brings them together, even though they may struggle or feel uncomfortable with how to feel emotionally bonded, or with the case of your father, and you were there’s been a lot of strain a lot of hurt, and had been a lot of turmoil throughout your years. Do you think, based on the relationships, healing was dependent on baseball, ultimately?
I really do. You know, I can’t overstate it enough. You know, I do believe that it gave us I think it would maybe in the beginning it was an artifice, but it gave us a foundation for being together. You know, if you look at bad relationships in your life, you know, you might want not want to go back for the holidays. You might not want to go back for a wedding, whatever it is, if someone’s hurt you you you try to avoid that. I knew at least with my dad Add in a visit, if my mother were there, that you could turn on a baseball game, and there would not do it. And this is not saying it’s great, and the best relationship, but there would not be fighting, there would not be an angry conversation for a few hours, and you could sit in peace and some relative peace and silence and watch something together. And I do believe it differs depending on the relationship and the person. But I do think there are things like that, like sports, that allow you to be next to someone.
Wade Rouse 30:44
And through that, there is a deeper connection that is established that you begin to see you can see someone in a different light or a new light. And I will say this about my father, you know, my mother, as a nurse, and a hospice nurse taught me so much about not living with regret, and about unconditional love. You know, and I will say she always said unconditional love was the hardest thing to, to receive and to give in this world. Because it’s love without conditions. You know, I love you, but or I love you f and my father had conditions for my for my love my whole life. And yet, after my mother passed away, I modeled what she taught me for him. Because, you know, one of my ways, strengths and weaknesses is this just stupid ability to believe in someone and to want to love them and to and to want them to be good. And it’s hurting me so much in my life that with my relationship with my father had paid off greatly my dad, you know, my mom wants comparative as I write in the book to a feral cat, you know, your corner, a feral cat. And you know, they need attention and they want love, they just have never known how to receive it their whole life. So my dad was very much like that.
Wade Rouse 32:11
And yet, and yet, I got to see him change and grow through because of our bond of baseball and because I didn’t give up on him. And you know, there are people in our lives that we do have to walk away from that may cause such pain and anguish, that it’s not healthy. But I saw in my dad, my dad was a smart guy. My dad was an emotional man. He just didn’t know how to show it. And I knew there was a core there that was despite everything he did to me and didn’t do for me. And there was a lot there’s a boatload of crap. I I just knew my dad was a better person than he ever showed and I, I it it’s the relationship that I’m glad I I strive to save.
Dave Ursillo 33:02
Absolutely, and our listeners will have to pick up magic season to experience the highs and the lows. But you do mention we that your mother was a hospice worker. And there’s one specific part of the book which actually begins with discussing Mark McGuire who later admitted to taking a steroid or a substance that wasn’t banned by baseball then. But there’s a lot of controversy surrounding all of the big sluggers during this phase of the 90s into the early 2000s. about juicing steroids, human growth hormone, a lot of controversy, especially because baseball in American folklore is such a pure every man’s game, I think is kind of how it’s it’s been established in in the American mythos. It’s, you don’t have to be the biggest player, you can be really small, you can be really fast as almost like a place for everyone, every athlete, I guess in the game of baseball, maybe not for everyone, especially those who are who are forced into trying to play it.
Dave Ursillo 34:03
But you mentioned in the against this backdrop of the culture of you know, this legend Mark McGwire and like re litigating what does that mean? You know, what does that mean for the legends of the game who we admire and who do these great things. You mentioned, your mother, the hospice worker teaching, you are trying to teach you the lesson of forgiving and forgetting. And you suggest in the book that maybe a better path than forgiving and forgetting is, as you say, remember and reconcile. I wonder what you see these days and in the context of your relationship with your father as the big difference between forgiven forget and remember and reconcile, what do you see as the the core difference there?
That’s a great, great question. And Lita and you know, it, it is, you know, I write a lot about, you know, McGuire and kind of comparing that to life. And, you know, I do believe that when we look back on history, kind of like as Homer on record or other sluggers records, there’s an asterisk by it, you know, we, you grow older, and you lose those in your life, you know, I’ve lost my immediate family, and you sometimes have memories that become a touch more tinged and gold, you know, they, you tried to soften those edges and remember them in ways that that are better than often they were. But I do believe my mother was right and wrong, you know, I do believe that, you know, you, you can forgive and forget. But it’s better to kind of remember and reconcile, that’s how it’s gotten me through, listen, all the crud.
Wade Rouse 35:45
So many of us go through all the things that I went through in my life, there were really two paths, you know, I tried to take my life at one time. It, it can crush you, it can overwhelm you. And you can continue to carry all of that on your back forever. Or, you can try to make peace at some way with it, and move on and become the person you were meant to be. And I, I think my past, and my history has made me who I am. And so I, I’ve looked back and know the pain and the hurt that was there.
Wade Rouse 36:27
But I also try to remember the good in it as well, because that’s what kept me going. You know, my grandparents were not perfect people. My grandpa Shipman my, you know, was very tough and rough. And yet, his sacrifices, he, he had to survive somehow. And that allowed me kind of that all rubs off, I always say, you know, like, I got a lot out of the Ozarks. And me too, you know, a lot of the red clay and rock is is part of me, and it makes it tough. But it also makes me remember who I am and where I was raised. And be thankful for that instead of angry at that at the age of 57. That doesn’t do me any good anymore.
Dave Ursillo 37:19
Yeah, and, you know, taking it back to what you how you describe that the difference between forgive and forget. And remember and reconcile, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the the idea of attachment styles. You mentioned Love Languages earlier. So I feel like attachment styles may be something you’re, you’re familiar with in psychology and human development terms. I feel like the forgive and forget is almost like the like almost as if an avoidant reaction to things of the past. Like we want to kind of like let it go and push it away. And remember and reconcile speaks to me in this way of like being a very secure way to acknowledge what has happened, and do the do the work, you know, in reconciling what it means to you or, for better or for worse.
Dave Ursillo 38:08
And I say that to set up this next question, which I’m curious about, in the context of forgiveness, obviously, the the story the experience of chronicled in your book with your father, and it probably would not be much harder to to forgive your father through the stories you know, just as an outsider speaking and not being able to imagine those experiences and how they would probably have shattered me as a human being but to remember remember and reconcile in the context of modern day canceled culture and this this idea that at best, this the force that almost like mob mentality of quote unquote canceling somebody, as an attempt to hold wrongdoers accountable, maybe to overcompensate for the ways in which a lot of wrongdoers especially men and abusers and and racist and misogynist and homophobes and, and all this sort have gotten away with it for too long, but at worst comes through with this like vindictive extremism of like collective shaming and refusal to allow somebody to reconcile I’m curious about if you have any personal opinions or professional opinions for that matter about does our does our culture today need to maybe embrace more of remember and reconcile versus the forgiven forget or its inverse of like, cancel and obliterate the memory of forever? What do you think?
I think it’s, I think it’s a mixed bag. I think there are certain actions and folks that you know, maybe should be canceled for their repetitive wrongness. But you know, for me, I will say this, I do think we can go to the extreme and the society At, and I will speak to this personally, I’m glad I did not cancel my father, because I got to see a human and a soul grow and transform more than any other I’ve experienced and in this lifetime, you know, when you talk about kind of this remembering and reconciling, you know, it’s it’s very linked to my husband Gary, who’s now 28 years sober, who is because of what he went through the most transparent and honest human being in the world, which was the hardest thing for me to deal with, you know, more so than even coming out. And, you know, all of the things that trauma that I went through, it was, it was his supreme honesty, because I came from a background of wanting to sweep everything and bury everything.
Wade Rouse 40:52
And he’s like, Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, if you’re feeling something, you say it, if you there’s an issue, it’s on the table right now, we do not go to bed or end today without entering all of that, and being transparent and open about what’s going on. And so a lot of his was more remembering and reconciling, then it was cutting people out because he hurt a lot of people too. And he had to make amends. And, you know, I think we can all believe that we don’t make mistakes, or we’re better than, but we are all flawed people. Maybe not to the extreme as my father was. But sometimes those you know, those foibles and fragilities. And people are beautiful, because we’re not perfect. And we need to remember that we’re not.
Dave Ursillo 41:49
That’s right. And I’m glad you mentioned, Gary again, because he shines through in your memoir, as sort of like a almost a superhuman, I would say just in the ways in which he supported you. champion you defended you confronted your father at times. But then also as as the book goes on in and your, your reconciliation with your father’s going on, he too, as you mentioned, he developed a relationship with your father. And there was a lot of mutual respect there.
Dave Ursillo 42:17
And one anecdote from the from the book in which Gary kind of behind your back calls your father to let him know that the Cardinals were coming back in one particular game, mounting a comeback against their rivals, and to give him the chance to watch it to celebrate it. So it’s such a such a beautiful story, and so much to take from it. Even if you’re not, I would say to the listener, a huge baseball fan. That’s one of the things I appreciate about the book, even though there’s, I have been a baseball fan of the past Red Sox fan, I’m sorry. But it this isn’t a book or story that really tries to shove shove the baseball down your throat, you know, but baseball is used as an analogy in a lot of cases. To convey how your experience but also how like people’s lives can relate to one another through baseball, but the ways in which also, baseball is not like life, I remember you saying in the book, way that in baseball, people have like specialized positions.
Dave Ursillo 43:20
But in life, we don’t have like a position. You know, we’re complex, we have different relationships with different people and those relationships, our quote, unquote positions can change over time. And it sounds like one of the things that you know, through your father’s illness, you becoming his primary caretaker for quite some time that the change was requisite, like the changing nature of relationship was was of course requisite for the healing for the reconciliation to take place. I’m wondering about the writing of this book, which I imagine was was challenging, but maybe it wasn’t. Tell me and tell us a little bit if you would, about how it felt to to write this book in re litigating the past and trying to make sense and meaning of all of all of the story that you were living before you wrote it? What was that, like it was,
it was hard, you know, this is probably the most heart wrenching and life affirming book that I’ve ever Written. And I needed time to process my father passed away in 2015. And I needed time to process that a little bit. And then as you know, as a writer, sometimes you have to take a step back before you can put yourself fully into the story and, and that’s what I did. And you know, you’re exactly right. The, you know, this structure of writing this ending the ending over the course of the last baseball game we ever watched together is a structure that I struggled with but finally, you know, truly watching that last game. It kind of dawned on me if I wanted to broach my relationship with my dad, this would be a part Perfect way to do it. You know, baseball is so similar to life. And you’re exactly right. You don’t have to be a baseball fan to, to, to love this book, I think it’s just a way to tell the story of two people. And it’s it’s I’m a big structure person, you know, any book that I write, you know, a lot of people are plotters and they spend, you know, months plotting out a book before they ever write a first word, I’m a big structure person, I really like to make sure that a structure that I use for a memoir or a novel is unique, and well considered and fits deeply into the foundation of the book and the story.
Wade Rouse 45:48
And it’s a way for me to hang my hat on you know, I’m a writer, a storyteller that loves to go past the present and back again, and structure like baseball, you know, going into ending is a way for me to do that. And, you know, I compare in this, in this book, I compare baseball to love, you know, I always say that, you know, people, we’ve got it wrong, our whole lives, you know, love isn’t shaped like a childish heart, it’s shaped like a baseball because it comes right at you, you know, ending after ending and pitch after pitch, and it’s disguised a lot as a fastball or curveball or a nut color. And if you get a good swing at it, just means you never take your eye off off of it. And you believed in it, that you’re gonna you’re gonna make contact at some point. So, I do love the structure of this book. And I don’t think you have to be a huge sports fan, I just think you have to be a huge fan of, of, of love.
Dave Ursillo 46:47
Yeah, absolutely. I think the the nonlinear structure to the story that you mentioned, going back in time and forward, really fills in a lot of the blanks and keeps the story moving in a really compelling way where, whereas sometimes a chronological story, well, it makes sense to the teller I always find, can sometimes feel out of order, even though it’s chronologically correct to a listener or to a reader, it’s almost like we need to be reminded of the the urgency, the noun nests, like the relevance to the story that we’re experiencing, and bring being brought back in time to witness retrospectively something I really admired about the structure of this book. Wait. So I’m glad you mentioned that.
Dave Ursillo 47:29
And so just to honor your time, you’ve been really generous. And I really appreciate you sharing all of this with us. And I’ll share in the notes how our listeners can find your book for themselves. I’m wondering if you could leave us perhaps with a thought, from your experience as a writer as a storyteller. To those listeners who either may be writers and storytellers or may not be maybe they’re intimidated by the idea of writing and storytelling it with, you know, structure and different genres. But you know, as the show is about the power and the healing and the possibility that can be found in storytelling, which is essentially just meaning making, right taking the initiative to think about to feel and to construct our own understandings of whether life or what’s going on in the world around us.
Dave Ursillo 48:20
I’m wondering if you could maybe leave us with a thought about what you’ve learned about the power of storytelling in telling both fiction stories under that pen name of your grandmother, and also re litigating and sharing your own stories in memoir, what’s something you’d like our listener writer or not to take away from what you’ve learned about storytelling throughout your career?
It’s, gosh, a great question. You know, and I have to say, you know, I grew up with the best of storytellers in the world, you know, Ozarks, Ozarks and Southern women. You know, my grandmother’s were incredible oral storytellers, as well as my mother. You know, I joke that my mother never met a comma or period in her life, you know, stories that would just last for weeks on end. You know, my dad would stand in the other room. It’s heard the story 1000 times they’d scream land the plane, Geraldine. So I think I’ve learned through listening to them, oral storytelling, what keeps you interested in the story? What is it what’s the essence and it really is, it’s voice that you know, I always say writers, we tell the same stories, you know, love war, duct sex, whatever it is, but it’s how you tell those stories, and bring them to life that makes it different and unique. That’s what sets us apart. You know, storytelling.
Wade Rouse 49:42
For me, I It’s been who I’ve connected with. Over Over the course of my career has changed me profoundly because the beauty of me telling my stories is that people have shared their stories with me. And emails, letters In signing lines, at author events, people open up in ways that I don’t think they ever would have before. And that’s what I know. Someone reading a book alone is, is walking in my or your shoes. They’re seeing the world from a totally different perspective and viewpoint. And I believe it’s it has the power to change them profoundly. And when you tell your story, when it’s like living your life, the one thing I’ve learned is I was I was scared my whole life, I was fearful my whole life. I was scared to come out. I was scared to be me.
Wade Rouse 50:42
I was scared to become a writer. And my first book wasn’t published until I was 40. And fear does awful things to us as as writers and storytellers. And as people, you know, it, it keeps us paralyzed, you know, when we sit down to write and, you know, we have that voice churning in our head, and we want to tell a story, and we think, Ah, this is gonna suck, or I’ll never make a dime doing this, or who cares, or I got to get dinner on the table, or I better mow the lawn, whatever it is. We stop ourselves before we even start.
Wade Rouse 51:18
And you learn a lot as a writer. But one thing you have to, I believe you have to do first is I’m learned so much crud and our life, so much about being scared and fearful and failing. And once you do that, once you do that I do I truly believe the floodgates open and wonderful things can happen.
Dave Ursillo 51:40
Wade rouse is the author of magic season a son’s story, we thank you so much for not only joining us and being generous with your time but for writing and sharing your stories and for that wonderful advice on defying the fear that holds us back to tell our tales. Thank you so much for joining us on The New Story Is
Wade Rouse 51:59
thank you for having me. I really appreciate it.
Dave Ursillo 52:01
And thank you for listening to this episode of The New Story Is we’ll be back soon with a fresh interview for you. In the meantime, if you’re feeling generous and want to help support our show, please rate and review. The New Story Is wherever you listen to podcasts. It helps others to find the show. Until next time, I’m Dave Ursillo. This has been the news story is bye for now.