Saturday I read a text while on lunch break from a writing workshop. While walking my dog I learned that a favored cousin had died, that it may have been as long as a couple weeks before she was found. The small words on my phone almost sat me down on the wet sidewalk – once again my dog kept me moving. Nobody can see a tear in your eye if you eat alone in a dark corner of a pub, this was working until I was invited to sit with the group. I chose to save the news for later, join them and float in their conversation’s. I succeeded in not thinking about her very much and did the best I could with the rest of the day. As I began the three hour drive home over the bridge guilt clutched me for being able to put myself first. The tortuous lone drive home on wet roads through dark trees seemed like an appropriate time-out.
Sunday I learned that she left a note – she had chosen this ending. It felt like an asthma attack in my head. As this sad ending becomes another of life’s unsolvable cruel riddles that ride in on the monster we simply call “Loss”; I will focus on what I can.
Mary was ten years older. Being another only child gave us a special bond, our club of one’s. Most years we got together on my family trips back to North Dakota. Mary lived on a huge farm alive with animals, horses being her favorite. This contrast to living in a small Washington town appealed to me. One Summer I was given three little ducklings to care for at my Grandparent’s farm. Years later we’d meet for dinner and a night on the town to catch-up, a highlight of my annual visits. Mary’s adult life revolved around taking care of elder family and helping other friends, she seemed to delight in the role. Certainly as they passed away, chunks of her went with them and loneliness soaked in.
My grandma was a one room live-in school teacher, before starting a family. She loved literature (more than the rest of us) her whole life.
I sometimes read my stuff outloud to her at the Fall City cemetery.
I don’t really think that she’s there, but it feels like she’s listening.
“Hey there”, she said after our common friend introduced us. I went from sipping a beer and people watching at Doc’s Tavern (minding my normal – alone business) to shaking hands with Christa. A sparkle in her eyes showed me something unexpectedly bright in the otherwise dark familiar place. A couple of rounds and few slow songs later – things changed. The lies that I had told myself about destiny and being alone, walls that time built to lean against and pretend, the words “Not for me” said out loud as if to protect. Dissolved. She stole them all with one kiss.
It just happened, I never set out to write anything nor get this involved with it, but here I am. As if life cracked me open and the words just started coming out. I began writing daily for an hour or two, sometimes all day and even a few marathon weekends with little time for food or sleep, I did this for about a year.
I set my pen down the day that I learned people in the present run out of time for those who live in the past.
I went from keeping my binder with me at all times to leaving it on the coffee table.
Instead of writing daily, I maybe read it a little every other week and tweaked anything that I stumbled on. This went on for almost a year.
One day I decided to pick it back up and work through it. I made some “Draft Copies” and gave them to a few friends and family, noting that it was far from finished. I wanted to give it, to give Sarrah, some kind of life and protect the story from being lost.
Having never read Memoir I began attending writing conferences, seminars and classes a year ago. Learning to take my story apart, reworking it for Show not Tell is easier said than done, seems especially for me.
I understand that in the paper-thin chance this story of a Special Dog and an Old Boy ever becomes more than evolving pages in a weathered binder on my coffee table (and a bit on a blog) it will be run through normalizing software to Scrub out my Bad Habits, over-polish punctuation and trim off the rough edges… somehow making it no longer feel like it’s mine.
Perhaps what I’m writing is simply a record to be read aloud to an older version of me, staring out a window, trying to remember a life.