Monday, May 27, 2013

As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling by Anne Serling

Last night after finishing Anne Serling’s stunningly beautiful book about her dad, I turned off the light; lie back on my pillow, closed my eyes, and in a borderland state of sleep, saw my dad in our sunlit living room. I was eleven. Mom was at school, teaching 3rd grade. Daddy was watching TV and I was brushing his hair in the way that little girls do. I knew that something was different. He was so rarely home in the middle of the day, and mom let me skip school to be home with him. Then he said, “Call your mother and tell her she needs to come home.” This wasn’t a dream. It happened. He died less than a month later. As I dream-floated through this memory last night, I awoke to find that for the first time in 53 years, I was crying for my daddy (below right).

It was with excitement and trepidation that I anticipated reading As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling by Anne Serling. Excitement because I wanted to know more about the man who so impacted my outlook on life, and trepidation because I was afraid that I would be disappointed in the book. Almost from the opening sentence, however, as if Anne were tucking a down comforter into the contours of my mind, I felt myself settling in warm and comfortable. If I didn’t before believe that there is a specific gene for writing, I do now.

The author (pictured left) recalls in exquisite detail her memories of her very loving relationship with her dad. There’s the requisite telling of his childhood and growing up, his extremely traumatic WWII service experience, his fascinating tenure writing for television and movies, his less well-known human rights activism, and his early death at the age of 50. But what makes this book so special, beyond Anne’s inborn writing skill, is the extraordinary depth of emotion with which she tells her father’s story. I particularly enjoyed how the author wove in excerpts of her father's eloquent personal letters and some of the of The Twilight Zone themes to demonstrate the substance of her dad's highly evolved humanity. 

Clearly, I wasn't the only person impacted by  Rod Serling’s iconic The Twilight Zone television series. Yet at the time it felt strangely personal, as if Serling were speaking directly to me. Without question, Serling’s writing shaped my morality. In fact, his parables found greater purchase in my psyche than the confusing and outdated biblical teachings that also populated my childhood. 

Anne Serling’s memories of her father, as poetically presented in As I Knew Him, may stir emotions you haven’t felt in years. I for one am grateful for the experience and believe that you will be too.


  1. Hi SueAnn,

    I was directed here from Anne Serling's Facebook. I am delighted and touched by your blog post, and thank you for the transparency! This November will be seven years since my mother's passing. I've wrestled with her absence in many ways, some more healthy than others, yet I always find my greatest solace in writing. As of recent I have rekindled my childhood love for storytelling, just finishing up a feature film screenplay.

    So, even though I'm not a "Gal", I couldn't help but comment on your wonderful post and connect with our common catharsis as writers.

    I love Anne Serling's book!



    1. Thank you for your comment, Very Smart Guy Steve.

      I call the Gals - Very Smart Gals blog my cheap therapy! You are right, somehow spreading your soul across the pages helps unburden us, and our writings become a tribute and the residue of our parents lives. Hopefully, someday my children will do the same for me, and for themselves.