A Eulogy for a Southern Gentleman

My desk


Here is the way it was in the city of Atlanta in 1973, over forty years ago when the dogwoods bloomed along Peachtree Road and there was a party in the Governor’s mansion in Buckhead. Barbara Conroy and I were new to the city and an invite for a party from Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter sounded like a ticket to heaven after being run out of South Carolina. We knew no one in the city until that night and it seemed like we knew everyone when the evening was over. As we were crowding around the doorway to the huge dining room – it was a night to celebrate the writers and journalists in Georgia – I heard the sound of high heels clicking against marble in the old tap dance of youth and radiance and I turned to see Anne Rivers Siddons and her flashy, dapper husband by her side – that devilish boy from St. Albans, the one with that ironical smile he perfected while at Princeton – and he was laughing about something that Annie was saying as they made their brilliant entrance into the heart of things.

They were beautiful to look at. Annie was as pretty and sexy a woman as ever drew breath in the sweet air of Georgia and Heyward symbolized some essence of the Atlanta businessman – sharp, tailored, and successful, every inch of him finely-wrought, brimming with the innate class of the Eastern establishment. To me, this is what I wanted Atlanta to look like – these were the people I’d moved to the city to meet. This was the night I met the writers Paul Darcy Boles, Paul Hemphill, Jim Townsend, Larry Woods, Joe Cumming, Betsy Fancher, Terry Kay and so many more, people I would come to love over the years. By all accounts, it was a magnificent gathering, except that alcohol was forbidden to be served in the Governor’s mansion during the Carter years. Toward the end, the sound of various writers choking and clawing at their throats was heard around the dining room as the first stages of delirium tremens began to set in at the tables to our right and left.

Anne Siddons

So that was how it began on a tender spring day in Atlanta and now it has ended in one of the tenderest springs in the memory of Charleston. I was too young to understand then that the brisk sound of high heels tapping out a rhythmic clatter on Georgia marble would result in a friendship that would last for forty years, that would open up my heart in so many ways I didn’t know it could be opened, and that my life had changed forever by the entrance into my life of this couple born into my life at that very moment.

Here is how Heyward and Annie struck me then and strike me now and time has done nothing to change what I feel about them both. They had sprung alive from the pages of an F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. Heyward was shy about revealing his privileged, Ivy League background and I believe it took over five seconds for him to tell me he was a Princeton graduate that night. In our next four thousand meetings we enjoyed Heyward would dip into his high-stepping past and reveal that he had gone to Princeton while I had spent the majority of my youth majoring in “Flamethrowers and Bazookas” at the Citadel. It was an article of faith in our relationship that Heyward believed he had received a better college education than I did. It got so bad that I would enter an Atlanta party, spot Heyward in the corner with Annie, and I’d say, “Hey, Heyward. Tell me now that you went to Princeton so you don’t have to drop it later at the party.” I’d then make my way to the Siddonses, hug both of them, and find out what was going on in their very well-lived in lives. It assured me that I’d always have my first drink of the night while talking to Annie and Heyward.

Heyward Siddons

My association of them with F. Scott Fitzgerald was not accidental. Heyward, in his understated elegance and good taste, had fallen in love with Anne Rivers Siddons who was about to begin a career that would make her a household name among discriminating readers in America. By marrying Heyward, Annie had placed her destiny alongside one of the greatest readers she would ever encounter, her head cheerleader during her remarkable career as the queen of Southern fiction, whose passionate love of her work was just another side to the most successful literary marriage it’s been my pleasure to observe.  Heyward became her number one fan, first reader, first editor, first critic, and the first to tell Annie that what she’d written was original, unique, and even magical. Heyward Siddons found great joy in telling me that he had married the most beautiful prose style in the South. Here is what was remarkable about Heyward Siddons, the Princetonian. He knew it, supported his wife in every way conceivable, and would shout it aloud to the world. He was the first great male feminist I ever met. He made his life a conscious celebration of his wife’s career. Heyward Siddons made it all possible and he made it look effortless.

It was not lost on me that Anne Rivers Siddons was some wraith-like incarnation of that lost soul of American letters, Zelda Fitzgerald. But where her husband Scott was enormously jealous of his wife’s talent, Heyward held his hand over Annie’s realizing its precious flame. It was never easy for women writers in America, and it was especially not easy in 1973. The legendary editor Jim Townsend dismissed Annie’s writing as mere “frou-frou” when I came to Atlanta. Women were held back, not listened to, given the lightest stories to report, and never given the chance to walk as equals in the boys club of Atlanta writers. As Heyward announced to me my first year in Atlanta, Annie was about to change all that, and change it she did. It was Heyward who gave me my first warning of incoming fire when Heartbreak Hotel was published. “It’ll define Southern college life in the 1950s, Conroy, the way Fitzgerald described Princeton of the Twenties,” and it did.

Annie then embarked on a many-pillared career that lifted off into the stratosphere… Peachtree Road, Gone with the Wind’s successor as THE

Heartbreak Hotel

Atlanta novel; Downtown, Annie’s rendition of the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta, including a grand portrayal of Jim Townsend who once labeled her work “frou-frou.” Fox’s Earth, Colony, The Homeplace came off her typewriter with astonishing speed, proving that hers was a deep, profligate talent that was not bound by any singular geography. Heyward Siddons played policeman, watchdog, and was the furious protector of her privacy as Annie wrote the books that would change our times.

Their house on Vermont served as a pleasure palace for the writers of Atlanta. Heyward and Annie hosted dinner parties that still feel like some of the best parts of my young manhood. Heyward was a refined, articulate host who wrote book reviews for Atlanta Magazine, read the New York Times daily, kept up with the news of the world and literature, kept alive the curiosity he developed in his early career in television and radio, could charm your socks off (on the rare occasions I wore socks), and turn his sardonic, or should I say Satanic, wit on anyone who popped into his newsfinder on any particular night.  He had a special genius for ferretting out any bad review I had received throughout our great land and cheerfully reciting from it as we dined over one of Annie’s shrimp casseroles. You had to be fast on your feet to be a worthy guess at Heyward Siddons’ house. Those conversations sparkled in the Atlanta air.

Remember the click of Annie’s high heels coming around that corner of the Governor’s mansion; I’ve been following the dance of that pretty woman and her debonair husband for forty years now. I followed them from Atlanta to a writers’ weekend in Tate Mountain, Georgia, to this mansion South of Broad, to a wedding in Rome, and to the deep immortal silences of the Maine Coast. For me, the great, unseeable reward I received from watching the marriage of Heyward and Annie Siddons is to be a witness to the greatest love story it has been a privilege to watch. This couple found each other in Atlanta during a time of stormy change in the South. That woman with the tapping heels found a man who did an elegant soft shoe beside her in a dance that would last the rest of their lives. If Heyward and Annie ever fought, I was never a witness to it. If they were ever furious with me or anyone else, I never knew of it. They seemed inseparable to me and I rarely saw them when they weren’t together, a perfect match, a bindery of souls. They taught every writer they ever met the limits of marriage and came close to proving it had no limits. Heyward Siddons taught all the writers in his life how to treat a woman, how to love a wife, how to live a life that was joyful and rich with happiness and worthy of imitation. Unlike F. Scott Fitzgerald, Heyward, you lived a full life with stalwart sons, lovely grandchildren, and a remarkable body of friends.

Heyward and Anne

There were no madhouses or crack-ups, and you let your Zelda bloom into one of the most storied careers ever lived by a woman in the American South.  You made that possible, Heyward, and through Annie’s work you helped launch the careers of Josephine Humphreys, Patti Callahan Henry, Cassandra King, Mary Alice Monroe, Sue Monk Kidd, Dorothea Benton Frank, Rebecca Wells and hundreds of others like them. A writer has never found a better man to accompany her on her waltz toward art. Every writer needs the solid foundation of the love and grounding you brought to Annie’s life. And in your generosity, you gave it to the whole generation of writers who came to adore you and that is your legacy for all time – until our last words are written.

65 Responses to A Eulogy for a Southern Gentleman

  • Roey Gangloff says:

    I had read several books by Anne Rivers Siddons and it is nice to know she had her biggest fan as her husband. If only everyone could be lucky. And you were blessed to know both.

  • Carol kelly says:

    Just wonderful

  • Glad to have the opportunity to read this. Thank you.

    • Prashant says:

      I knew both Ed and Monica when I lived in Pottstown, PA, as a teenager. It was the 60 s, and we woerkd together on an underground newspaper called The Minor’s Lamp . I went to Pottsgrove High School, they went to Boyertown High. I loved the Newbolds’ home, which was landscaped by Ed and Monica’s father, Albert. It was a lovely oasis in the turbulence of my teenage years, and the times that were the 60 s.Some years later in 1980 my then wife, Claire, and I were living in Morristown, New Jersey. We spent a remarkable evening still one of the most amazing of my life with Monica, and old friends Bill and Hermann (from Hamburg, Germany) at our little apartment. I think we could have levitated the whole town. I have been blessed and privileged to have known and worked with many brilliant and good people in my life, but I still think that our little group in Pottstown Ed, Monica, Bill and Hermann rank at the top of my list, both in terms of intelligence, and as human beings.I was shocked and saddened to hear of Monica’s death. I remember her mostly as a bright, energetic, opinionated (in a good way), intellectually challenging and good-hearted 17 year-old. She will live on in my heart and my mind.

  • Elizabeth Turner w says:

    What a great story . I read every book by Anne and Pat. So sorry for your tremendous loss.

  • Margaret Zuber says:

    Beautiful and tender, like everything you write.

  • Luana says:

    What a wonderful tribute to a great man from a great man~~

  • Lu L. La Fontaine says:

    I liked this essay so much. You just made me like the Siddons, and now I can’t wait to read Anne’s books. I’ve never read an Anne Siddons book. I skipped them as probable southern fluff. (I have, however, read all your books.). I’m going to buy one of her books tonight for my NOOK. I have read all of Fitzgerald’s books and then a biography of Zelda. I was appalled at the way he had copied page after page from her diaries without giving her any credit. Yes, the Heyward marriage sounds ideal, but my heart still goes out to Zelda.

  • Janet Porter Miller- Savannah says:

    What a lovely tribute to your friend. Thank you for sharing something personal and how they touched your life. I have always been a fan.

    • Vickie Johnson-Bennett says:

      Beautiful tribute. I have read and re read every book Anne Siddons and Pat Conroy ever wrote, and found some inner truth about myself as a child of the South,

  • Missy Poppenger says:

    A beautiful essay. I have always loved Anne Rivers Siddons and so appreciate your sharing their story. I hadn’t realized she was married. Nice to hear about her husband. Thank you

  • Kimberly Duncan says:

    Perfect. Magnificent.

  • Jim Spellman says:

    Again , you have made me feel I know people I never met . You honor those you write of by making friends for them of those they never saw.
    Mr. Conroy , thank you for sharing your gift .

  • Mary Moreau says:

    Dear Pat,

    I feel your sorrow of losing another friend. So lovely to compose an essay that describes such an interesting couple. I have her books and as well as yours (signed) and have to announce to all that Southern authors are the most sincere, thoughtful, deeply rooted in red clay, and imaginative writers of all. Thanks for writing some new words about a dear friend, as special as you are to me.

  • Therese Miller says:

    Colony and Beach Music, my two favorite novels of all time. Anne Rivers Siddons was the first writer who inspired to me to read all of her books sequentially over a one year period. Love her! Then I read Beach Music and found my other favorite writer of all time. How wonderful they are the best of friends! Thank you for sharing your thoughts about Heyward Siddons.

  • Lucy Metz says:

    About 10 or so years ago, I was in a bookstore in downtown Spruce Pine, NC. I was looking for anything written by Pat Conroy that I hadn’t read because Pat is my favorite author. The lady who owned the quaint store asked if she could help me. When I told her what I was looking for, she told me that I had read all of Pat’s books, but she had several by the “female version” of Pat Conroy…Anne Rivers Siddons. I took her word for it and bought three of Anne’s books. I was hooked! Thanks so much for sharing this eulogy. I’m pleased to learn a bit about Anne Rivers Siddons’ personal life, plus I love reading anything and everything written by you, Mr. Conroy.

  • Margaret Elizabeth Harper says:

    It is totally amazing to me that my two favorite authors are good friends! I have read almost every book that you and Anne have written. I buy your books and highlight passages that speak to me either because of their sentiment or their beauty. I loved this eulogy to Heyward Siddons and am delighted to know that he cherished his wife. That, alone, says so much about his character. Thank you for this beautiful tribute to his life.

  • Maricia R says:

    What a wonderful tribute to your friend and his wife. Sad is always the parting of loved ones and death the saddest of all. Thank you for sharing. I have several of your books and Anne’s and many of the authors’ mentioned. My words are a poor attempt to let you know how much all of the southern writing community means to me. Your words always tell a me a beautiful and familiar story.

  • Lynn Eldredge says:

    Thank you.

  • So tender and beautiful, Pat. Hugs.

  • Ingrid McGowan says:

    Anne Rivers Siddons has long been one of my favorite authors and I have read all of the books you mentioned. My sincerest condolences to her and her family. Thank you for the touching tribute and I now I have more Southern writers’ names to add to my must-read list!

  • Irene Yeates says:

    As I approach the second “anniversary” of my husband’s death, the title of your post caught my eye. I read it with tears in my eyes as certain words echoed descriptions of my husband, “A Southern Gentleman.” Ours was a similar relationship, so I thank you for writing such a moving eulogy that calmed this soul. I have read almost all of Anne’s books when I discovered her after our move to Wilmington, NC in 1982. Peachtree Road reminded me of your book, The Prince of Tides. To know that her husband encouraged Anne to foster her talents is a tribute in itself.

    My mother’s health necessitated a return to NY in 1996, but my love of old and new Southern writers remains with this avid reader.

    To Anne, I offer my sincere condolences, and I know her friends near and far will grieve with, then comfort her in the days ahead. In my experience, the waves of grief strike when you least expect. Memories are a treasure that is never lost.

  • Kay Roberts says:

    As always Pat Conroy….eloquent!

    • Patrick says:

      I, too, wrote a few things for the underground newspaper put out by Ed and Monica while they were at Boyertown High and I was at Pottstown High. It was truly an experience that changed my life. I continued not only writing, but working for progressive causes we all championed back then and continue to champion. There really are no words to describe the incredible inspiration Monica was to all of us. She was younger than I, but she was so far beyond me in social consciousness. My husband and I have lived in Bechtelsville for several years now, and I was never aware until after that terrible night that Monica had been a frequent visitor to the area. I wish I would have known. She remains and always will remain a major influence in my life. As the first anniversary of her death approaches, I will spend much time thinking of her not how she died, but rather, how she lived. She left a legacy that few of us will ever match.

  • I met Mrs. Siddons only once at a symposium for English teachers in Atlanta. She was keynote speaker and sparkled with wit and joy. She spoke of her friendship with you. Thank you for this wonderful insight into her personal life.

  • The wonderful thing about you, Pat Conroy, is that I always learn from your writing how to be a better, kinder person. Your words are savored and read over and over. Thank you for always setting the bar high for writing. I am your biggest fan and that is only because you speak to my heart and soul. Thank God for your beautiful words! I am sure that everyone who meets you feels exactly the same way. A wonderful tribute, if we all could be so lucky to have words written about us in such a touching and tender way.

  • Mary DOWD says:

    Your eulogy made me sorry never to have met this talented & magical couple. Sincerely sorry you’ve lost this amazing indivual.

  • Patricia Minton says:

    Pat, this was beautiful! After reading this I feel like they were my friends too. I have Ann’s book as well as most of the withers you mentioned, including yours. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Patricia from South Carolina

  • Richard Bowers says:

    Wonderful eulogy for him and for the two of them as a couple. In truth, have enjoyed her books, knew she was from Georgia, but never given much thought to her, or their, private life. Always figured that if she chose to be a writer, what she owed to her readers was her best effort but her personal life, and his, was their business not mine. Having said that, I enjoyed learning about him and them from your perspective. It is obvious that you cared a great deal about them.

  • Sterleen Bryson says:

    What a beautiful tribute to a southern gentleman and his beloved wife.

    • Jenifer says:

      I’m so glad that you’re enjoying the book! My daghtuer just read it, too, and loved it. She didn’t expect to; I think the cover looks too chick-lit for what we’d normally read. She’d walk up to me at different times and say things about Miranda or Oli and I’d be like, “HUH??” before I realized she was talking about the book. I need to request some of the author’s other books.I LOVED Anne River Siddons books years ago–Colony was a favorite–but she’s become hit or miss. I remember recommending her books to somebody and they told me afterwards that they thought it was the most depressing thing they’d ever read–I think it was Outer Banks. LOL The muffins look GOOD!

  • Carol Barker says:

    A beautiful tribute for a life well lived….. written as only Pat Conroy could.

  • A lovely, lovely tribute, Pat. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • Cheryl Anctil says:

    That eulogy took my breath away and made my eyes wet, but then again your writing does that to me. What a lovely and beautiful tribute.

  • Paul Otto says:

    Even as Haywood sat bond by a hospital type chair in his Maine living room at 86, his smile and voice could light up an entire room. Thank you for this wonderful tribute.

  • Jeanne Klice says:

    Wonderfully done, as always. Years ago I sat on a bar stool and read the Prologue to THE PRINCE OF TIDES. I was hooked. I reread that book about every five years and everything else you’ve had published. Through you I learned of Anne Rivers Siddons and her lovely books. Thank you for the look into her and her husband’s lives and your life. I’m very sorry for your loss of a good friend.

  • Brenda King-Holley says:

    Heyward Siddons was lucky to have you as his friend – what a beautifully written eulogy from another great Southern Gentleman!

    Mr. Siddons obviously had a great eye for quality writing – I’ve read and enjoyed numerous books by Anne Rivers Siddons, Dorothea Benton Franks, and Cassandra King. If I see any of these names on a book’s cover, the only question I have before purchasing the book is whether I’ve already read the book! I’ve probably read others whose career he launched. They’re all real books about real people – and, like real life, the stories don’t always end happily. But you want them to!

    My sincere condolences to Ms. Siddons.

  • Tiffany Johns says:

    Sweet words for a kind man and a wonderful couple.

  • Shelley says:

    This is a document that will be kept by the Siddons family forever.

    And it’s so good for writers to hear about other writers who are happy.

  • judith scallion says:

    I was introduced to southern writers by anne river Siddons peachtree road.I soon found you, patti Callahan Henry, mary kay Andrews and numerous others. Thanks you for sharing such a wonderful eulogy. Yes, she has been an inspiration to so many.

  • TDawg says:

    “I was too young to understand then that the brisk sound of high heels tapping out a rhythmic clatter on Georgia marble…” The marble floor in the Governor’s mansion is actually from Tennessee. Georgia marble is too soft for flooring. :D GO DAWGS!!!

  • Beth says:

    Mr. Heyward was truly a southern gentleman and so proud of his bride! He was one of my favorite customers at “the bank down the street” in Atlanta.

  • Rebecca Ros says:

    Dear Pat,
    I have read with great enjoyment most of your books. This eulogy is so beautiful; we should all be so lucky to have such a loving and supportive spouse. I have neglected to read Anne’s books, since I too thought they would be Southern frou-frou. A past due apology from a fellow Tri Delta from Auburn University goes to her. I will immediately repent of my sins and read her books (and finish yours.)

  • Brenda Adams says:

    PAT, this is beautiful as all of your work. May God be with both of them and her spirit be lifted knowing someday she will see him again.

  • Patsy Newman says:

    As a huge fan of both Anne Rivers Siddons and Pat Conroy, I can imagine no more worthy eulogy for the man who adored one and was dear friend of the other. I have read and loved every book both authors wrote, but DOWNTOWN was my favorite because it was about my coming of age years. Thank you, Mr Conroy, for your most lovely tribute!

  • Leslie Golden says:

    Your eulogy was lovely and moving. Even more than her novels, I love Mrs. Siddon’s book of essays and your eulogy confirmed the love story that limns its pages. Thank you for writing so well and lovingly of both Mr. Siddons and his wife and for sharing those words here. It was a gallant, generous thing to do.

  • Victoria Freeman says:

    This has to be one of the most insightful and beautiful eulogies I have ever read. As a journalist, I have written my share of them.Thanks, Pat Conroy, for revealing an entire life in a limited number of words. I have taught a Siddons grandchild and read many of Anne’s books, but knew nothing of her beloved husband.

  • Kem Siddonsq says:

    Pat – a priceless, precious gift to our family. Heartfelt THANKS sir!

  • Kim says:

    one of my favorite Anne Rivers Siddons lines “you smells tired” . Lovely this.xo

  • Helen says:

    A eulogy such as this by the incomparable Pat Conroy makes dying a lofty ambition.

  • Patty Blum says:

    Thank you for this eulogy. Avid reader who loves all your books and all the others too.
    a true tribute!

  • Cathie Martin says:

    I love this Mr. Conroy. Thanks for sharing. I have read all of Anne Rivers Siddons books as well as yours. The way you put words together is wonderful to read, and I so enjoy your both.

    What a love story you have just told. Thanks again.

    My best, Cathie Martin

  • judy marie watson says:

    Having imagined my Canadian soul must have once lived on Southern American soils, I have been blessed and transported to read great writers hailing from the warmer States over many years. With one of my most treasured authors being Mr. Conroy, I was very moved to by his tribute to this gentleman and dear friend. Sometimes the greatest of friendships happen by chance…it seems this one was meant to be, and to be celebrated in such a loving manner. My condolences to all who have lost such a special man as was Mr. Siddons.

  • Eppie Mills Adams says:

    You bless me with every word you write! Thank you dear Pat! And prayers to Miss Anne!

  • Emma Ford says:

    This eulogy is perfect. A supportive mate is a rare gift. Pat Conroy’s words always bring me to tears sooner or later.

  • Lola Davis says:

    Mr. Conroy, this tribute to your friend is wonderful. I too have such good friends and realize more with each passing day of my life that a friend is a gift one gives to one’s self. One of my all time favorite movie is Prince of Tides, I am reading Anne Rivers Siddons book, Off Season now and just bought one of your books yesterday, Beach Music. I also have read and reread your book, The Water is Wide, love it, love it, love it. Thank you so much for sharing and isn’t it just wonderful to have such friends?

  • Lola Davis says:

    Mr. Conroy, your tribute to your friend was wonderful. I could not believe it when I looked at my Facebook page and saw this tribute written by you. I am now reading OFF SEASON by Anne Rivers Siddon and bought one of your books yesterday, BEACH MUSIC. One of my all time movies is THE PRINCE OF TIDES. I love, love, love your book and movie, THE WATER IS WIDE. A favorite book of MS Siddon is LOW COUNTRY, I have shared this book with two daughters. I too have friends like the Siddons and often say, a friend is a gift one gives to one’s self. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Margo Petrus says:

    Thank you Mr. Conroy. I did not know Heyward Siddons had passed; therefore I was brought to tears from your beautiful tribute. Anne Rivers Siddons has been one of my favorite authors since I first read PEACHTREE ROAD. I remember finishing the novel and immediately finding the courage to call the Siddons household with the encouragement of my loving husband…Heyward answered the phone & said Ms. Siddons was in the Carriage House writing…but, he was so kind to me and asked if he could help…I was obsessed with the ending of PEACHTREE ROAD and wanted to know the author’s true meaning…he helped me with the answer by asking me to remember a few things at the beginning of the novel…I was then able to conclude the author’s meaning at the end. A true gentleman to take the time to help me and talk to me. A week later an original copy of ‘JOHN CHANCELLOR MAKES ME CRY’ appeared on my doorstep with a lovely letter by Anne. I will always remember both Heyward & Anne’s true generosity.

  • Elizabeth T says:

    My two favorite authors – you and ARS. So glad to know what a classy guy was behind her. I just finished reading Death of Santini, and thinking about the inspirations behind great authors leaves me contemplative of the good and bad that can drive and support that work.

    First of all, I know you were kind about Fr. Conroy, because you did not mention the ubiquitous, often tilted toupee he wore. I am guessing that you cut him slack because of the work he did in feeding the homeless and poor, which were truly good acts of his vocation, and where he left any monies after his death. I in fact attended St. Anthony’s, and listened to his sermons, remarkable for their brevity, which I found their best quality. I attended St. Ambrose. Your descriptions are apt, except for excluding the toupee, which I am sure you observed. I do understand the tension between the good and bad in outsized characters of life. I also had a father who I hated, and loved, and understood that he believed that the home was a fighting ground because of his background and experiences. Without too much fanfare, after years of thought, these are my conclusions:

    1. Adults unconsciously recreate their childhood, where they replay the same scenarios. It explains why Christmases and birthdays were especially bad at our home. ‘Nuff said.
    2. Adults recast themselves this time as the victors instead of victims as they were when they were small and defenseless. Those that can’t pull through, as you did to become a strong survivor from the wreckage, go the other way, curl up, and shrink to much less than they could have been in a normal environment.
    3. Adults fall into patterns they witnessed, until they go through a lot of work, sometimes with help, to identify and adopt different behaviors that they consciously perform even decades later as they internally force their initial reaction to be tempered down. This leads to some mistrust in instincts, a sort of “out of synch” feeling that is actually normal, if you look at it that way.
    4. While you hate the parent, there is some relief if you have it better, as I did vs. for example my sister, because you might have had more obvious talent. This guilt is a form of survivor’s guilt. If those siblings believe you act like the parent at all, they will reject you the same way – simply to protect themselves. For those people, actually saying the opposite of whatever you are thinking (for example, showing extreme sympathy for whimpering weaknesses, etc.) can propel you into success, once the sibling is convinced you are sincere. This can take years, but it works. It helps to remember point #2 here.

    I have a few stories myself to share of memories – my dad and his half siblings (those younger children he defended as the oldest), the kindest aunts and uncles a niece could know, finally receiving the death certificate on their father, his stepfather: all of them laughing aloud in satisfied delight that he died of cirrhosis of the liver, finally finding the grave of the father who abandoned him and contemplating urinating on it, explaining to his curious grandchildren at graveside that, “it’s just another way of saying goodbye,” and my aunt telling me that when my dad, who became legal guardian of his siblings at 18, threw her across the room for back talking, it was because she deserved it.

    I became a truth seeking missile, all the result of my childhood, made up of invented parental pasts and charades. I do also feel like I came out least damaged from my family, like a survivor, but still work at shoring up the damaged, mistrustful, and angry parts. Seriously, it is laugh or cry. And finally, my dad also transformed himself from the real bastard he was into the loving, kindly person he appears to be at 86. Of course, since you and I know only the good die young, he’s going on strong. I am glad to know Heyward Siddons was a good and stable man. And hey – my son goes to Princeton.

  • Mara Dzienis says:

    I am a born and bred New Jersey woman that loves to read southern fiction. My first experience with this genre came many, many years ago when my mother loaned me a book by Anne Rivers Siddons and I became a life long fan. I was very excited to learn about your new imprint, Story River Books. I am however dismayed at the price of the first book, A Southern Girl. I would love to know why it is so expensive($18.59 on Amazon and $29.99 from Barnes and Noble). While I understand the issues between writers, publishers and digital book sellers, I think the consumer may be getting lost in the battle. I very much want to read A southern Girl, but it is above my means to pay almost $20.00 for a digital book.

  • Cerese Feagans says:

    Thank you for writing such a lovely eulogy. I have read all of Anne Rivers Siddons’ books (and yours too).

  • Charlotte says:

    Thank you, Mr. Conroy.

  • I started reading Ms. Siddon’s books probably twenty or so years ago,and was immediately transported back to a life I had lived before, and that perhaps I was to find solace in and maybe even forgiveness for others.I have read almost all of her books and to this day I, while sometimes anticipate and eagerly await the turning of the phrase and page I know that I too have been fortunate enough to have my own “Mr. Siddons”.
    Mr. Conroy, you lived the male version of my life and I felt every word and could see myself in every chapter of Price Of Tides, and I congratulate both of us for having survived.

  • Norma P. Allen says:

    Mr. Siddons would be pleased with your words. I still reread Mrs. Siddons “John Chancellor Makes Me Cry”–great stories of Atlanta during the 60′s ( lived in Decatur). Her love for her husband came through on the pages.

    I lived in Beaufort in 1964 for a short time–can’t say it was easy for a Boston suburb young woman to tolerate the humidity, etc. A few years later my Mom suggested I read “The Water Is Wide”, that I might rethink my first impression of the Low Country. It did, I am a convert . Oh, the Boston suburbs? I never went back to live–North Carolina is home.

  • Mary Jane says:

    Although I missed Pat Conroy’s eloquent tribute to his friend at the time of Heyward Siddons’ death, I am truly thankful that this beautiful eulogy appeared again on Facebook, this year. Hayward Siddons must have been a warm, loving person, who recognized his wife’s talent and encouraged it in meaningful ways. Anne Rivers Siddons has been one of my favorite writers since I discovered her amazing book, “Heartbreak Hotel,” when my years at a large, southern university were still a recent memory. Her writing style drew me into that novel and I have followed her career, faithfully, ever since.

    As each new book was published, I rejoiced and brought it home, where my husband and three sons knew that dinner might be late that evening. How wonderful to know that she had a loving husband and family, who encouraged her talent. It has been gratifying to see, in recent years, that her reputation as a writer has grown from, “southern genre,” to her well-deserved, “writer of international reputation.”

    While changing planes in the hectic Atlanta airport, many years and many novels later, I noticed a very familiar face in the crowd, but did not realize that it was ARS until after I had boarded my next flight. In a conversation, soon after this, I mentioned the incident to my only first cousin, a lifelong resident of eastern Long Island. She had just finished “Up Island,” which she loved for the lyrical quality of descriptions of sea and salt air, filled with birds of the seashore. Of course, we now share another interest, in addition to family connections!

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