Time: 11:55 a.m.
Music: “Fourteen Drawings” | Helios
I’m having daddy issues.
The first thing I say when someone asks me what my book is about is, “what it was like growing up in a nondenominational Christian home, school, and church.” It’s become a tagline, and I can see myself using it for proposal after proposal. The thing I don’t say, unless I’ve had more than three beers, is that it’s about how my father’s death (when I was four) has always informed how I view the concept of eternity and faith. Ending vs. Never Ending.
I avoided the topic for a year and a half, not because I felt it was too personal or raw, but because I was afraid of becoming a cliche memoirist–how some single great tragedy has informed every detail since.
I’ve ‘fessed up at this point. The prologue and first chapter are almost solely devoted to him, and it makes its way into most successive chapters. But right now, I’m dead stuck, or stuck on death.
I’m trying to revise the newest chapter, “The Shape of a Ghost” (tent.) and can’t seem to move far. In an hour, I have one new paragraph, and most of it is crossed out. What I am trying to explore is how the memories* of my father are voiceless, static. I have no recollection of anything he said, and in general, it feels like I’m circling the images as if I were a ghost, waiting for him as he slowly turns into one. In his last month, his deathbed was the pullout couch in the living room. In a sense, he became an object, a piece of furniture–having a defined shape, but no voice. Inanimate, but eternally fixed in his spot.
The night he died, I wasn’t even in the house–the house that had become him. So, even his death becomes a ghost in my head; an empty shape that I keep trying to fill. But how do you write 12 pages about a scene that has no movement, no voices? And further, how do you quiet the stuttering voice in your head that says the death story has to be small-yet-epic, stirring, but not a head-on collision in central square of weepytown? Basically, make it about death without seeming that you’re always talking about death.
*without ever using the word ‘memories’ since, duh, it’s a memoir.