As I had hoped in the last check-in, I have been able to write about some of the stress and problems I have faced recently. I am still using my fountain pens and writing paper rather than the computer; something about the tactile feel of the words pouring out with the ink is more cathartic. Also, I am following the earlier suggestions that I change my writing place and get up earlier. I go out on my front porch to write. The mornings are crisp, even while the days heat up later.
My brother emailed me on Saturday to tell me that his oncologist found a mass in his remaining lung. My family does not talk about anything that might reek of emotions, so it is not surprising that he would choose to email rather than call. I haven’t delved completely into my reactions to my brother’s illness. I shrink from it as from a hot stove. When his cancer was first diagnosed, I fell apart. I could barely function. I must find a way to grieve without shutting down again. I feel guilty talking about grieving, as my brother hasn’t even had a biopsy yet, but I never worked through the first time he was sick.
I called my father Sunday night to check on him, especially as he would have heard my brother’s news as well. The call became rather surreal, with my father becoming rather emotional. My mother is entirely lost to us through Alzheimer’s, but Sunday night was the first time he didn’t try to cover up for her, to pretend that she wasn’t responding because she was busy. My father described how lonely and disconnected he feels, how starved for conversation, which really touched me. I shared with him my loneliness for an adult voice when I was home with my toddler sons, how I dragooned the postman to spend just a little time with me by offering a cool glass of water, a bit of shadetree. He thanked me for understanding him and not chastising him, again in a surreal role reversal.
I don’t seem to be able to do much but write about the pain that has threaded through the generations; my father losing his brother to an impaired driver; my siblings reacting in our different ways to our wounded parents, turning inward and wounding ourselves or outward and attacking the others; my children and nieces and nephews all finding their parents odd and unconnected to their siblings, still following the decorous steps of avoidance taught us so early and so well.
I feel guilty for mining these experiences, yet they are the stuff of my writing. I use the way I saw my father change during the phone call announcing my uncle’s death, the light dimming, flickering, folding in on itself. I sketch the lines of dismissive, bullying enemies from my siblings’ dismissal of me, familiar as the ache of long-healed broken bones on a crisp December evening. I mine the cost of breaking with convention, of being perceived as uselessly, stubbornly, educated in a world that values beauty, even though it makes my eyes burn with repressed tears.
So, I’m writing through the pain and the guilt, and hope that something useful will come of it, if only self-awareness. I fell down on sponsorship duties Sunday and have yet to reply to comments, but I will do so in the next day or so. The past few days have borne out my own rendition of the verse, “The truth shall set you free,” to which I have always added, “but first it will make you miserable.” I plan to hammer the pain and truth into words.
I’d also like to shout out to Natalie Hartford, whose moving stories about the loss of her mother-in-law to an impaired driver burrowed into me until I could work through the loss of my uncle.
As always, please give your support and encouragement to the other ROWers. The blog hop linky isn’t up yet, but I can refer you to the main site’s blog. Go have a look. If you write, you might find this supportive community interesting. If you don’t write, you will find some lovely people, great blogs and wonderful books.