978-0-8263-5366-5“Leaving Tinkertown” by Tanya Ward Goodman

University of New Mexico Press, $19.95, 220 pp.

Goodman autographs copies of “Leaving Tinkertown” 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31 at Tinkertown Museum, 121 Sandia Crest Rd., Sandia Park. She will also talk about the book at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1 at Bookworks, 4022 Rio Grande NW; 2-3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4 at Moby Dickens Bookshop, 124 Bent St., Taos; and at 2 p.m. Sept. 7 at Barnes & Noble, Coronado Shopping Center, Albuquerque.

By David Steinberg

As a general literary form, “Leaving Tinkertown” is a memoir.

But the author, Tanya Ward Goodman, has her own ideas about limiting the book to that category.

“Someone recently described ‘Leaving Tinkertown’ to me as ‘a love story.’ And I think this is a very true statement. ‘Love story’ sounds so much better than ‘Alzheimer’s memoir,’ but it is that, too,” Goodman said in an email.

“It is a bunch of love stories. It is the story of my love for my father.  It is also the story of how I met my husband.  And it is the story of how my love for my stepmother grew out of a terrible situation.”

The book’s title refers to Tinkertown Museum in Sandia Park. Goodman’s father, eccentric artist-collector Ross Ward, built the museum. In 1996, the 55-year-old Ward was showing symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s. He died of the disease six years later.

“The book is about caring for my father and grandmother as they both battled Alzheimer’s, but I think it is also about how we learned to care for each other and ourselves as a family,” Goodman said in the email.

“Quite honestly, it was a miserable experience.  There were a lot of terrible times.  At one point or another, we were all angry, we cried all the time.  We probably drank too much wine.  We disappointed each other and took each other for granted.  But we also loved each other like crazy. We still do.  We made it through this thing with a little grace and with our sanity and sense of humor intact.”

The published book started out as written notes to help her deal with her father after his being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“I wrote in a journal and on little slips of paper, on the backs of envelopes and receipts and in notebooks.  I wrote down the things Dad would say and the things that happened to us as his disease progressed.  It was a way for me to put things in a kind of deep freeze so that I could deal with them later,” Goodman said in an email.

“Later”  turned out to be nearly four years later after Goodman’s marriage, the birth of her son and then her daughter.

Tanya Ward Goodman Author PicShe took a memoir-writing class at UCLA Extension. Goodman lives in Los Angeles.

“I started writing larger sections, just delving into my pile of notes and letting my brain kind of open up and relax into the past,” she said.

“It was easier to do with so much distance between that life and my new life as a mother and wife.  I wrote more essays but I didn’t really think I was writing a book.  It wasn’t until my teacher, Samantha Dunn (a great writer and fellow New Mexican), told me to stop calling it a ‘project and start calling it a book,’ that I went home and printed everything I’d written.  There were nearly 175 pages and the stack of paper brought tears to my eyes.  The book grew to over 400 pages and then I whittled it back down to its final form.  I think I needed to write everything in order to see what really needed to remain.  It was hard to stop writing I think because whenever I sat down at my desk, my Dad was with me.  I could hear him so clearly.”

Goodman said the best thing that’s happened to her since the book’s recent publication is having been contacted by some of her dad’s old friends. They’ve shared stories with her that she’d never heard before.

She added, “The book didn’t bring him back, but it’s helped me realize, on a deeper level, that he never really left.  He’s still with me.”

John Nichols, the author of “The Milagro Beanfield War,” is quoted in a blurb on the back cover of “Leaving Tinkertown”:  “In all, this is one of the most special books I have read in a long while, and I will give it to many friends as a true gift from the heart.”

Editor’s note: “Leaving Tinkertown” is part of UNM Press’ Literature and Medicine Series. The stated purpose of the series is to showcase “stories that explore the nature of health and healing and the texture of the experience of illness.”