Monday, May 4, 2009

Writing About a Parent Can Be the Toughest of All

I'm stretching this post to make it writing related, because the real purpose is to explain why I haven't been posting regularly. This Thursday, April 29, my Dad passed away at the age of 86.

While it is always sad losing a family member, death at a ripe old age is the natural way, and so I don't expect people to feel sorry, though they will say it automatically. And death was really a relief in this case as my father suffered a slow, and recently more precipitous, neurological deterioration for more than 20 years that eventually left him unable to walk, toilet himself, and virtually unable to express himself. My only regret is that I allowed the medical community to feed the natural optimism of other family members who didn't want to let go, forcing my poor father into squeezing rubber balls between his knees, eating food he'd lost all interest for, and listening to 20-somethings egg him on in sing-song tones usually reserved to motivate kindergartners, when what he desired most was to end his life in his own time and with a bit of dignity.

Now it's time to plan the private funeral and following memorial service. I'm caught up with my Mom's finances, making sure there's enough cash to pay the bills. To a certain extent it's much like planning a party or a wedding. The same effort goes into it though it ends on a different note. My sister tells me she's wakened in the middle of the last few nights stressing over whether she made all the proper arrangements and remembering something she'd forgotten to do. I've been waking also, but not over funeral arrangements. Just like those parties and weddings I mentioned, once everyone arrives few notice what is there and what's missing. They simply eat and drink and talk, and in the case of a funeral, shed a few tears.

I've been waking in the night because during the day I'd plan to take time to write the words I wanted to say at the service, and every day my thoughts would be interrupted several times, and each morning I'd read over what I'd written the day before and do the techno-equivalent of balling it up and throwing it in the trash. Each night I've been waking with words in my head, but when I write them down in the morning they leave me unsatisfied.

I've never been a writer who wrote well about personal things, and, frankly, I find fiction that is obviously an aggrieved child's rapier thrust at a parent rather boring. However, even more boring is a Waltons-like portrayal of childhood. Finding the right balance is tough in fiction, essay, memoir, and eulogy.

I suppose what will happen is that, on Saturday morning, I will simply print out what I have and go with it. I'll have no choice unless I want to incur the wrath of my sister who fears we won't have enough to fill the time. But I'm guessing that long after, I'll still be honing and revising, even though the final version will sit in my Word files for no one to see––at least until I die.

1 comment:

CashewElliott said...

I hope things went well. Good luck, and best wishes.


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