I wrote a few weeks ago about my frustration with finding a topic for my memoir class, mentioning how I'm generally quite a private person (despite all evidence to the contrary, given that I'm writing this on a public blog, which quite literally exists for other people to read) and how while I love to read memoirs, writing down intimate details of my life to share with others is not so much my thing. I managed to write one piece that I was reasonably pleased with, and it got a good reaction from my classmates, and I felt like I was getting somewhere with this whole experience-sharing business. But even with that piece, there were details that I deliberately omitted-- the memory was too close to my heart to share more than a glimpse into it. When it came time to write the next piece, I was stuck right up until the night before class.
I decided pretty early on in the semester that I wouldn't be writing about losing my dad and everything that led up to it. It's still much too soon for me to be able to think about it without crying, never mind sharing it with a class. But it made me wonder if I was being neglectful or disrespectful to my dad's memory by not writing about it, because it's truly the most intensely painful and impactful thing that I've ever experienced. It's on my mind constantly, he's on my mind constantly. But writing about it in detail felt out of the question, and not only would it be really, really difficult for me to write. My dad's life shouldn't be defined by its ending. Instead, I started writing about some of my favorite memories of my childhood-- coming home from school and spending time with my family and the special bond that we shared and still share. Finally, a subject about which I have years and years of experience and emotion.
Writing memories from my childhood, which was as wonderful a childhood as anyone could ever ask for, was bittersweet. I'm so relieved to finally be able to remember life before my dad got sick. The good memories are slowly making their way to the top of my mind instead of being firmly pushed down by the upsetting ones. After my professor read my memoir fragment on Monday, she said "It's lovely...I was just talking with [another professor at my school] about how if someone were to write a deep, heartfelt memoir about a happy experience, we'd love to read it, but those aren't generally things people write memoirs about. Keep writing about this-- a happy childhood is rare and the rest of us who didn't have one can live vicariously through reading about it." Her words really resonated with me. My blissful childhood was an event that deserves description just as much as any of the devastating memories.
As much as I'm enjoying recalling happier times, it's also painful. As I wrote about the simple pleasure of coming home from school and opening into the door to our wonderful, welcoming hobbit-hole of a house and saying hello to my parents, I couldn't suppress one thought from circling in my mind.
How could everything have gone so wrong?
It's a question that I'll never have a satisfactory answer to. And that is really, really difficult to live with--the idea that tragic things can happen completely arbitrarily. Right now, though, I'm trying to find comfort in exploring my recollections of a time before I ever asked that question. I'm trying to honor my dad by remembering his life and how joyful my family's lives were together.
I'm trying to remember that before everything went wrong, everything was right.
if you're interested in the memoir fragment that inspired this blog post, feel free to read it here.