John Thomas Tuft
4 min readJan 1, 2024


By John Thomas Tuft

I’ve been friends with my children for five years, I learned this morning upon opening Facebook. “Do tell,” I muttered to myself and Casper, the 101 pounds of white fluff Great Pyrenees snoring at my feet. “About time!” They are turning ages 43, 42, and 37 in this coming year. They can speak for themselves about their journey with their father. I shared a lot of their early years in my old newspaper column in Beaver County, PA, before they could defend themselves. Now I endeavor to be more circumspect. After all, now I have grandchildren to ruin as I teach them to play catch in the house, enjoy sweets, and yes, it’s okay to test your parents’ limits. Especially as they reach their teenage years! The five-year-old loves to read, does big puzzles all on his own — always with a mischievous look in his eyes — has his father’s cowlicks, still snuggles with his mother, and avoids vegetables at all costs. My fourteen-year-old granddaughter, the only one I have, still plays catch with me in the house. Hey, my house, my rules.

Five years ago, on this date, I still resided in an independent living facility, a step up from my year in assisted living. It was a gradual awakening from the miasmic grayness of pain meds, suicidal depression, and anxiety extraordinaire. In the documentary about this period, found on my website which I’ll try to link to with this story, two dear friends from that same place attest to just how bad off I was at the time. Sadly, one of them, Margie, passed away in 2023 and I have a hole in my heart. I sometimes scroll through the film real fast so I can see her again, beside me on the couch in the library, laughing as she gives me a hard time. When I hugged her goodbye at the end of filming that day, she whispered in my ear, “I love you, John.” I love you, too, Margie. Thank you barely begins to cover my debt to you, and John H., Claudia, Ginny, and all the other Clowns of God who nurtured me unawares. And who stopped by my table after dinner, gathering in a circle to listen as I read that day’s poem, written on my placemat. That film has been an official selection of the three major film festivals it’s been in this past year and everybody’s favorite character is John H., as it should be.

The picture with this story was taken by John H. to be used with the publicity for my novel, The Healer. If I look good, it’s John’s fault. Blame his wizardry with a camera. More likely I should use my id photo for my time in assisted living, but I wasn’t doing social media at the time. And I certainly did not expect to be on the cusp of 2024 with a book of these stories, Words Are Magic, out in the big, wide world because you, my readers, kept asking me when I was going to put them in a book. So that one’s on you! As the memory stories pop up for my timeline as the years unroll, I see comments left by two other friends, Vanna and Dennis, both also now passed on. I remember doing a zoom interview with Vanna and her death doula that they graciously let me tell you about. And shortly before his death, Dennis called me over Messenger to ask how the movie possibilities were coming along. He thought that he had hung up but I could hear him telling his wife how unfair it was that my star was rising as he feared his life’s work would disappear upon his demise. This one is for you, Dennis.

I also discovered through social media in 2019 that my first novel, Even the Darkness, from 1994, was still up on Amazon with a review that said, roughly, “I was ready to hate a story telling how human ministers can be with doubts and temptations, acting like jerks, and was ready to trash it. But now, I wish there were more books like it!” That book garnered a review saying I was a promising successor to one of my writing heroes, Frederick Buechner. I’m not. With his passing, I am certain that he can rest easy. As I write this, I am munching on pepperoni rolls — I couldn’t leave West Virgina out of this, Mom and Grandma Vernie, who both show up in these stories — and, you guessed it, M&Ms. Because of a thoughtful reader, I have refilled my Words Are Magic jar with these tasty treats and the words are tumbling out.

Social media is based on the basic principles of modifying human behavior and creating algorithms to feed those needs and appetites. It takes away the mystery of all the clicks, likes and follows once you realize that. Humans are always going to act like human perishables, whether church enters the picture or not. The Presbyterians banned me from their Facebook pages this year because my words into stories are too much…of something. At the cusp of 2024, the year I turn 70, a major publisher wants to take over publication and distribution of my novels. A major movie studio wants to turn them into feature films. Why? Because words are magic… It’s certainly not because I eat all of my vegetables.

Don’t forget to play catch in the house, enjoy what you eat, read for the hell of it, and whisper in the ear of those whom you love.



John Thomas Tuft

John is a novelist, retired mental health counselor and minister and sheep farmer, who now lives in Roanoke, VA.