Since my father died two years ago, I have been thinking about writing a memoir about my memories of him. I was paralyzed by my own fears of what I would find if I plunged too deeply into the past. Yesterday, my college president, Dr. Stephen Kopp, died suddenly of a heart attack. I knew President Kopp, though not well, and his work on internationalizing my college’s campus is the reason that I have a job I love today. His sudden death made me realize that being paralyzed by my own fears has left me with a life half-lived and if I don’t plunge ahead with my own writing interests that I will never feel personally fulfilled.
Here is an excerpt of a memoir that I plan to write:
The grief that came upon me in the wake of my father’s death was unbearable. Lost in the legal entanglement of his estate and the hoard he left behind. I barely had time to heal my wounds before plunging faceforward into a life whose occupant at times I hated and who loathed me with equal ferocity in return. Yet no matter our mutual dislike, blood sustained us, and in the end, he trusted me to do the right thing and take care of his children. While I yearned for his approval my entire life, this final act of transferring responsibility to me was his greatest compliment.
Most people think of their lives as a series of events. I think of mine as scenes from a movie where greater pieces of the narrative are best left on the cutting room floor. Sometimes memory comes to me in flashes of light. A still shot that is grainy for bad memories, and a full textured shot for good ones. I know that my narrative is still being written, but I selfishly want to look ahead, even to the end.
Roses wilt to black,
like the pebbles of asphalt,
dotting my driveway.
Ice forms in small patches
until the grass shivers
under its weight. Shocked
to the root by frigid temperature.
Beneath the cracked ice,
frozen sculptures appear
with figures hidden inside, like dappled glass.
To be discovered by garden archeologist,
in their dormat state, the roses
dream of warm springs, green grass, and
the buzz of bees that harvest their full ripeness.
Hope is a cruel master,
making promises with
his forked tongue and
mocking those who disobey.
I find my hope at
the bottom of a glass where
I press my thumb at the bottom
and there is one more drop.
I press my thumb in my mouth
and suck it like a child at Christmas.
Hope mocks me with waves of dizziness
and laughter as a stumble to the door.
The street spills in front of me.
Hope’s forked tongue whistles in my ear
as I walk home.
Words come on
padded footsteps, two-by-two.
Treading softly until
my mind awakens.
Reaching into my desk drawer,
a pencil slips carefully
into my hand.
Each stroke of graphite
carves words onto porous paper.
There, my thoughts are indelible
until time fades the marks
down to scribbles.
Then, I will fade, too.
The water was cold when I fell into it. The shock the fall and the cold of the water caused my lungs to contract and my scream was soundless. I kicked to the surface until my mouth opened to the cold air and my scream became a sound that echoed like I was in an enclosed room. After I exhausted my lungs of oxygen, I began to trend water and peered into the blackness to find an outline, shape, something recognizable; there was nothing. I began to swim, kicking and paddling, hoping to reach something dry. Then I ran head-first into something solid. My head bumped, once, then twice, then I reached up to touch it with my hands; it was a wall. Solid, flat with no discernible markings to tell me where I was or what I was in. I moved along the wall, treading water, until I reached a joint, then I moved along that wall, then another, and finally another. I was in a box. I wanted to cry out for help, but was too exhausted to move. Suddenly, I heard the noise of a machine. A large wave overtook me, and then water began to fill the box until I hit my head again on the ceiling. I took one last gasp of air. Then I woke up. The covers curled around me, indicating that I had another nightmare. The wave machine, meant to help me sleep, was knocked to the floor, but the crashing wave sound echoed off the walls of the room. Outside, the garbage truck was backing up for its weekly pickup. Ah, Wednesday! Only two more days of going to work at Amazon, sitting in my box, starting at the computer screen. I suppose I could make it through if the boss would let me hang up a picture or two, but he says with hyphenated hands that it is against company policy. So I sit in my little box, answer the phone and waiting for the clock to strike 5:00 pm.
I was sitting at my computer typing when I looked up at the cat. Normally, he sat next to me as I typed with his small head on my leg. The reassurance of his small head, pressing against my crossed leg, provided a measure of comfort as I fought my own self-loathing to write. My fingers press against the keys on the keyboard with a reluctance I rarely find at work. It is the night. The darkness and the shadows that stay at bay in the light, drive themselves forward at night. Alone in my house, I wrap myself in blankets and the cat stays by my side while I type or read until I fall asleep. The daylight comes in waves and I wake up with my cat by my side and emerge to face the day again. So it was to my great surprise to see my cat, lying in a chair across the room asleep. If he is lying over there, then what is pressing against my leg?