It’s been an interesting journey from an avid runner at age 47 to my 80th birthday. The road races have been replaced by the occasional walks and the writing of 5 books; the recent being my memoir, “Victims Make the best Birdhouses.” I don’t know what’s coming next. That’s my dilemma?
Reviewed in the United States on September 27, 2022
I couldn’t stop reading it once I started, and stayed up the whole night. It took me hours to read this book. It also made me realize that even though it is difficult to be a survivor, you can be one. It takes courage to write a book so deeply related to your life and experiences.
Huge respect for the writer.
5.0 out of 5 stars Very eye opening story Reviewed in the United States on October 5, 2022
This book is extremely well written in a way that allows the reader to connect to the story being told. I finished the book within two days of receiving it. I will be shopping for other books written by Larry Franklin
Sorgel’s sleepless nights were mixed with the fear that it was a hoax, or possibly an illusion, and the longing hope that he might in some way become Shakespeare. Memories began to return as visual images and then, auditory sounds that issued from him when Sorgel sang a melody he had never heard before. In a few days, Sorgel’s speech took on the r’s and open vowels of the sixteenth century. He began to sound like Shakespeare.
Memory was not the stretch of rolling hills with green meadows and natural springs that Sorgel had hoped for. It was a mountain range with beautiful and, at the same time. terrifying peaks, frigid temperatures and the threatening crevasse just around the corner. Some memories were shadowy, and some were so traumatic that they were hidden forever. Sorgel enjoyed the happiness of the moment, and then his mood darkened from an unwanted memory.
At first, Sorgel’s and Shakespeare’s memories were separate and easily distinguishable from each other. Then they began to mix, and finally “Shakespeare’s Memory” overpowered his own causing Sorgel to question his sanity and wonder how little time was left before he was no longer the man he once knew.
It became clear that Sorgel had no choice but to give “Shakespeare’s Memory” away. He dialed telephone numbers at random. At first they were met with skepticism and then an abrupt hang-up. In time, he reached a more receptive gentleman, and Sorgel said, “Do you want “Shakespeare’s Memory?” And to Sorgel’s surprise, the voice answered, “I will take that risk. I accept “Shakespeare’s Memory.”
“Shakespeare’s Memory” was transferred a little at a time, and it was irregular at best. But years later, some residue still remained. “I am now a man among men,” Sorgel wrote. “In my waking hours I am Professor Emeritus Hermann Sorgel. I putter about the card catalog and compose erudite trivialities, but at dawn I sometimes know that the person dreaming is that other man. Every so often in the evening I am unsettled by small, fleeting memories that are perhaps authentic.”
(Part II of the introduction to “Mnemosyne: A Love Affair With Memory.)
Thorpe continued. “I am not an impostor. I am not insane. I beg you to suspend judgment until you hear me out. I was a military physician. I was in a field hospital when a soldier who had been shot twice was about to die. What he told me might sound quite startling, but strange things are the norm in times of war. The soldier, Adam Clay, offered me “‘Shakespeare’s Memory,” and then, on the final minutes of his life, he struggled to explain the singular condition of the gift. ‘The one who offers the gift must offer it aloud, and the one who is to receive it must accept it the same way. The man who gives it loses it forever,’ he said to me.”
“And you now possess “Shakespeare?” Sorgel asked.
“I am now in possession of two memories — Shakespeare’s and my own. They seem to merge, or maybe I should say that two memories possess me.”
I’ve searched the works of Shakespeare for years, Sorgel thought. What better gift than to know the inner workings of Shakespeare’s mind, and maybe touch his soul. “Yes,” Sorgel declared with an assertive tone. “I accept ‘Shakespeare'”s Memory.
“Shakespeare’s is a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. While the work is fiction, Borges’ insights into memory are both precise and profound, and as real as life itself. Borges leads us through a maze of discoveries as bits and pieces and chunks of memory begin to unfold.
Sorgel recalled Thorpe’s words. “It will emerge in dreams, or when you awake, when you turn the pages of a book, or turn a corner. Don’t be impatient. Don’t invent recollections. As I gradually forget, you will remember.”
Taken from Franklin’s Prologue
“Shakespeare’s Memory” is a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. While the work is fiction, Borges’ insights into memory are both precise and profound, and as real as life itself. Borges leads us through a maze of discoveries as bits and pieces and chunks of memory begin to unfold.
It was an earlier time, late nineteenth or early twentieth century, when three learned men — Hermann Sorgel, Daniel Thorpe, and Major Barclay — gathered in an english pub. They had attended a day-long Shakespearean conference in London; listening to lectures on the works of William Shakespeare. What better place to finish the day. A bar lined one wall, a smoke-stained fireplace stood against another, and several like-minded patrons circled small wooden tables separated just enough for an intimate conversion. The cigars were strong that night, and the dark, warm beer was smooth and plentiful.
The major abruptly changed the conversation when he pointed to a beggar standing outside. Islamic legend has it, he said, that King Solomon owned a ring that allowed him to understand the language of the birds. And a particular beggar, so the story goes, somehow came into possession of the ring. Of course the ring was beyond any imaginable value and could not be sold. Legend has it that the beggar died in one of the courtyards of the mosque of Wazir Khan, in Lahore.
Sorgel jokingly added that the ring was surely lost, like all magical thingamajigs. Or maybe some chap has it, he said with a chuckle, and can’t make out what they’re saying because of all the racket.
Thorpe weighed in. “It is not a parable. Or if it is, it is still a true story. There are certain things that have a price so high that they can never be sold.” Thorpe went mute and stared at the floor. He seemed to regret having spoken at all.
The darkening of Thorpe’s mood and the lateness of the evening moved the major to call it a night. Thorpe and Sorgel soon followed suit and returned to their hotel. Thorpe then invited Sorgel to his room to continue their conversation. It was here, in the privacy of Thorpe’s room, that he asked Sorgel if he would like to own King Solomons ring. “That’s a metaphor, of course, but the thing the metaphor stands for is every bit as wondrous as he ring. ‘Shakespeare’s Memory,’ from his youngest boyhood days to early April 1616–I offer it to you.” Sorgel fell silent as he struggled to find a word.
Blurbs taken from “A Path With Heart” by Jack Kornfield
When we take the one seat on our meditation
cushion we become our own monastery. We cre-
ate the compassionate space that allows for the
arising of all things: sorrows, loneliness, shame,
desire, regret, frustration, happiness.
When any experience of body, heart, or mind
keeps repeating in consciousness, it is a signal
that this visitor is asking for a deeper and fuller
Concentration is never a matter of force or coer-
cion. You simply pick up the puppy again and
return to reconnect with the here and now.
Larry Franklin’s memoir, “Victims Make the Best Birdhouses,” is a blueprint for moving from an abuse victim to a survivor; a place where injured souls can flourish when light is allowed to shine. The story is an emotion-packed tale designed to allow the curious reader to visit a different world.
Franklin holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music, and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing. He was first trumpet in the U.S. Navy Band located in Washington D.C. from 1967 to 1971. In 1972 through 1975, Franklin taught music at Southern Illinois University and earned his MFA at Goucher College in Baltimore, MD. Franklin has published five nonfiction books from 2003 to 2022.
Larry, focused and committed, would face the demons that ruled his boy, the boy with the bent neck and a dog whose tail wouldn’t wag. The two of them, Larry and his boy, began by holding hands and becoming familiar with the touch of their skin. The similarity in appearance was unfamiliar. Larry was looking at himself, a young boy living in the past, wile the boy was looking at Larry, the older man living in the present day.
For the longest time, Larry apologized to the boy for his neglectful ways. He wanted to make things right. But not until Larry asked the boy to tell him about his past, about the abuse he endured, did the boy begin to speak. The boy told of a life with an older brother who beat him, raped him, and when finished, walked away with evil is his eyes. He told of being held by his ankles, dangled out the window of the hayloft, and warmed that he would be dropped if he revealed such horrors. He told of a life with a father who because of his own misery, chose to neglect him, but did give him one week of love in the summer of 1949. He told of a father who, when he divorced his wife, kept his older son and sent Larry to live with his mother. There was a car wreck in which the hood decapitated his father and crushed the head of his brother. There was a mother who denied him of a childhood and expected him to take car of her needs, those of a divorced young woman who craved the physical love of a man. The boy’s emotional pain felt like raw flesh burning in the summer sun. That’s what his inner child said.
As the boy told his story, the tear lines running from the dog’s eyes to his nose became wet from a steady flow of tears. Moved by the story, Larry picked up the little boy and his dog, placed both on his lap and held them for hours. Tears that began flowing down Larry’s face dropped onto the little boy and his dog. Something magical happened. The boy’s neck began to move. The boy looked up at Larry and said, “I love you.”
“And I love you,” Larry said. As their faces took on a smile, the dog’s tail began to wag. Gone was the boy with the bent neck and a dog whose tail wouldn’t wag.
(Parts I through IV spin a tale about the healing of Larry’s inner child. When asked by his therapist to contact his inner child, Larry was unable to do so. By writing in third person and in the form of a tale, Larry was able to complete the healing process.)
It soon became obvious why Father Ramero had been so upset when they first sat together. Larry discovered his child, a little boy some seven-years old, dressed in scuffed shoes, a faded flannel shirt that hung lower on the left side because the buttons and holes were unmatched, and a cap made of brown vinly, cracked and peeled from the summer sun. The boy’s neck pointed downward at a forty-five-degree angle. The boy had no reason to lift his head. In time, atrophy froze the muscles of his neck. No matter how hard he tried, the child could not move his neck. Leaning against the child’s leg was a grief-struck dog that continually looked up at the boy’s face. Like the boy’s neck, the dog’s tail could not move. This was a dog whose tail wouldn’t wag.
During meditation, Larry envisioned getting on the floor, looking up at the boy, and trying to make eye contact. Only after hours of struggle did they look at each other, but only as strangers. Larry went to Father Ramero and shared his disappointment and concern about the lack of any noticeable progress.
Father Ramero looked deeply into Larry’s soul. “Larry, do you love your little boy?” Silence followed. I’m not sure. I know that I should. But I never thought about him before. I tried to forget him. He represented everything sad and evil about my childhood. If I get too close to him, will I feel his pain? I don’t know if I could handle it.
Father Ramero put his arms around Larry. With some hesitation, Larry put his arms around the Father. “Larry, let’s hold on to each other for a while. I want you to feel the love I have for you. There’s nothing dangerous or abusive about my feelings of love for you. I expect nothing in return. It’s my hope and expectation that you will view my feelings of love as the presence of God. Nothing else could be so wonderful.”
They embraced for a very long time. Finally, the Father asked Larry if he trusted him, and Larry responded by saying “Yes, I love you.”
“And I love you,” Father Ramero answered. “Your child cannot heal without your love. Yes, you will feel his pain, but nothing of value ever comes easily. Go and be with your child.”
Without hesitation, the man who we will call Larry, took the woman’s advice. Two days and two nights into Larry’s journey, he reached a small monastery with walls of reddish sandstone that blended into the mountainside. Surrounding the buildings were gardens filled with lush vegetation, donkeys, rabbits, dogs, cows, and several men dressed in brown robes with sandals strapped to their feet.
Under a large tree sat Father Ramero, a lean man built like a long-distance runner with a freshly shaved head. He was in deep thought as his mind visited another time and place.
As Larry moved forward, Father Ramero opened his eyes and a slight smile quickly grew on his face. “Welcome, Larry. I’ve been expecting you. Come, sit , and tell me of your path.”
Larry told Father Ramero about the sadness in his life and about a childhood squandered away by physical and sexual abuse. “Let us sit together and find the source of your pain,” Father Ramero said. “Meditate and let the secrets of your life come forward.” They sat for two-hours without speaking. Larry opened his eyes. He felt sadness but didn’t know why. He looked at Father Ramero and was shocked to see teardrops running down his face. The front of his robe was wet. Clearly upset by his experience, Father Ramero spoke. “I saw the boy with the bent neck and a dog whose tail wouldn’t wag. Larry, your child is in a great deal of pain. You have neglected his needs. Sit with your child, learn to know him, learn to love him. You’re welcome to stay with us while you begin your journey.”
Except for the brief moments needed to eat bread, fruit, and drink some water, Larry spent all his waking time sitting or walking in meditation while his energy was focused on the child within. Silence was only interrupted by the occasional words of encouragement from Father Ramero.