Suzanne Beecher
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2017 First Place Winner: Herman Martin

Dear Reader,

"Tell me a little bit about yourself," I asked Herman Martin, this year's First Place Winner in our Write a DearReader writing contest.

With no hesitation Herman said, "I am 67. I am an Iowan. I'm a caregiver for my wife. I have six kids, loads of grandkids and great grandkids—oh, and I like to write."

Talking to Herman on the phone, his enthusiasm and zest for life were bright and bold. I was smiling through our entire conversation. Herman says he tries to write a little bit each day, "To keep my hand in it." He started out only writing poetry, in fact he self-published a collection of his poems, "A Spark of Humanity" via Amazon, and he self-published a mystery title, too. Herman's also written numerous stories for magazines. His goal is to publish, "...a full fledged novel, 400 to 500 pages."

Not only is Herman writing every day, he bakes, too. "I live in a senior complex, so there's always people who are happy I'm baking. And once a month there's a birthday party and I usually bake the cake."

I really enjoyed reading your entry Herman. Keep writing and baking and spreading the joy!

—Suzanne Beecher

Congratulations to First Place Winner, Herman Martin...

I was getting ready to do the laundry and I had an enormous thought. I am disappearing. Not disappearing in the usual sense. Not the science fiction movie you can't see me anymore sense. Just disappearing.

I looked at my clothes. My socks are wearing out. It seems that a day doesn't go by that I have to throw one away. One gets holes, to the trash it goes. Same for my underwear. I looked in my closet and I don't have as many shirts as I used to have. I used to have a job where I always wore a dress shirt and tie. Now I am not working and I no longer need them.

I once had 50-60 ties. Some were even designed for the holidays. Some had Santa and his reindeer, some had green four leaf clovers for Saint Patrick's day. I no longer work that job, so I don't need the ties anymore. Some went to a charity shop, some in the garbage.

My closet now has more t-shirts than dress shirts. The ones I could no longer wear went away. Same for my trousers. I could not wear them so out they went. I once had 2-3 pairs of sneakers and a pair of boots and five pairs of dress shoes. Now one pair of dress shoes and two pairs of sneakers. I look at them and see that they are not going to last much longer.

I only keep the one pair of dress shoes, so I can look decent at a family funeral. I have been to a lot of those. I have lost both sets of grandparents, then my father, then my mother. I lost my oldest sister this year. My mother used to call me at least once a week with the name of someone in our family who had died. Now she is gone so no more phone calls, but there are still funerals.

I have worked all my life. I have had many types of jobs in every field. Whenever I lost one I was always able to get another one in a short time. This time I have not been so lucky. I have been unemployed for a year and I am still looking. I have sent out resumes, filled out applications, and even been to a couple of interviews. I thought that the interviews went well, but no offers and no phone calls to return.

I am slowly fading away. Even when I go out to the grocery store or just to take a walk, no one notices me. There are no service people coming up to me and asking if they could help. There are no offers of parking my car or giving me a cart to use in the store. If I want something, I must find it myself. If I want something done, then I alone must do it. Even when I walk through the store aisles, I feel as if I could walk through the crowd. I mean, literally, walk through.

I have become a non-entity, a non-person. I do not exist in anyone's life.

I look at my laundry and think about the day when I throw that last sock away. Will I completely disappear? Will I be like a ghostly spirit, walking but not being seen? Will cars pass through me when I cross the street? Will people look through me and not at me? Will I continue to be ignored when I ask a question?

I have two more pairs of socks left. I see one of them is starting to wear through.

It won't be long now.

—Herman Martin
First Place, 2017 Write a DearReader Contest