Last Thursday as the late afternoon sun started casting longer shadows on the ground a UPS van pulled up to a stop on the street in front of our home. I was outside and watched as Carlos, the man we often chat with when he makes a delivery, grabbed a box and started walking in my direction. I met him half way and took one look at the return address on the package and felt my heart race. After a few pleasantries I went to our front lawn and sat back down. I knew what was in the box.
With a key I sliced the tape apart on the box and pulled open the flaps. With one hand I removed the top layer of packing and then just gazed down at the contents. I was looking for the first time at my book.
I picked up one of the copies and opened it to a random place and held it to my nose. The new scent of a freshly published book was just as I expected. It was intense.
I held the book in my hand and looked out across the green lawn than just had been mowed, and then took another sip of coffee from the mug that sat on the arm of the chair.
It was one of those moments in life that needed to be savored.
Below is one of the press releases for my book.
While writing Walking Up The Ramp Gregory Humphrey often reflected on the words President Nixon said upon leaving the White House in 1974. “Nobody will ever write a book, probably, about my Mother.” Nixon could have said the same about his Dad.
Humphrey has constructed homage to his parents, a moving and sentimental journey in book form not meant to provide a detailed genealogical history but rather the story of their lives. The book underscores how Royce and Geneva Humphrey provided a solid foundation on how to live life, and instilled bedrock values aimed to last a lifetime for their son.
As Humphrey turned fifty he decided to write on various aspects of life and synthesize them into a narrative that combines stories of laughter and also heartache.
“When I was a kid Dad would drive me every Friday night to the local library, where I found so much comfort in the books,” Humphrey said. “Books were a real refuge for me. After I left home Mom said given what I enjoyed I should write a book someday.”
With respect but candor Humphrey’s first book takes readers not only inside the Humphrey family home, but also through the contours of his own life. Humphrey writes about what a cup of coffee really represented in Geneva’s kitchen, while Royce demonstrates what ‘paying it forward’ means when helping motorists with a flat tire, and then refusing payment for his efforts. We read of Mom showing the virtues of a rainy day while Dad explains why a perfectly shaped Christmas tree is not the best one to select. We learn lessons about living life from Dad’s snow plowing job.
The pace of life slows down in the Hancock of Humphrey’s youth. We revisit the barber’s chair, and the lady who staffed the local library housed in a small white building on Main Street. Memories of road construction in front of the family home, the sounds of water sizzling on Grandma’s cast-iron stove, the sight of Grandpa’s hay-baling operation—all are events recalled with joy. A newspaper arrives every day in the mailbox, the phone is a party line, and news of President Truman’s death is heard over the radio. There was no television at home.
Humphrey weaves a tale of a lanky kid who loved to read books, was not sports-oriented, and was continually bullied in high school. Stripped of his self-confidence, he enters the darkest time of his life. His best friend commits suicide. Humphrey states clearly his own feelings of utter despair as a teenager who felt isolated in a small town and without the resources to heal.
Humphrey writes about the strength of the human spirit, and how hope appears in the most unexpected ways. This part of the story is meant to lift the sails of anyone who has struggled to overcome burdens in life.
With Humphrey’s acceptance to broadcasting school came the opening to life in which he so long had hoped to participate. From working at WDOR to employment at the Wisconsin State Capitol, a continuing series of stories and reflections makes for a compelling read. Put life into perspective. Prioritize what is important. Live authentically. These things take time and come from the most painful and unsettling chapters of life.
“Writing a book like this often felt like leaving my raw emotions on the keyboard,” Humphrey said upon completion of his project. “There was no way to start my story and not add the parts that made me sad or contemplative.”
With honest appraisals comes a book about living genuinely. The larger story it tells is meant to provide hope for those who struggle to find their way, and need to know there can be a better day ahead.
“No one needs to cast off the better parts of the past just to move beyond the rough times,” Humphrey writes in the book.
Over and over Humphrey goes back to those early years and warm memories of childhood where a loving foundation was created at home by two parents who helped raise a boy into a determined man.
Walking Up The Ramp is available to the public through Amazon. It has 312 pages, over 120,000 words, over 2,000 paragraphs, and 23 photos.