I’ve been a little bit inspired today. I left work at 5pm, earlier than usual, and headed to Brattle Theatre for a panel on fatherhood, consisting of four writers who contributed to The Book of Dads, a collection of essays about the joys and perils of being a father.
When the Grub Street Rag Mag email newsletter alerted me to this event, I immediately added it to my Google Calendar. I couldn’t explain why, other than my ongoing interest in the topic of fatherhood and my renewed interest in writing. To me, the two are somehow intertwined. A couple of years ago, I had set out to write a memoir about my father, who died in 1998. (Writer Jennifer Finney Boylan, in the panel tonight, said that her dead father didn’t die but continued to live, within her. I’d think that Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh especially would agree with that, although for Boylan it was quite literally a ghostly experience as well.)
That memoir didn’t happen. I wrote a letter to my father in my journal, at first conveying the pains of my existence while still making an effort to fall short of blaming him, and then turning around by telling him the progress I had made and asking him for his help. The next journal entry consisted of a two-page list of memories of my father, one memory per line on the page.
I had nearly forgotten about that letter and subsequent list of memories, both fond and fierce, until recently, when, attempting to clear the clutter in my bedroom, I pulled my journal from my shelf not to write again but to read random meanderings, to see if I could jostle a morsel of creativity after months of not writing on my blog, after years of not writing fiction. I even went back to a CD-ROM I made in 2001 of my writing in high school and early college, and was amazed at the progress I made, even from ninth to twelfth grade.
I was amazed at where my mind was at the time, back in the loner days of high school, back when my father was alive but not really living, back when I had a story idea and went with it, being truly in the moment and not deterred or distracted by the world around me. Over the years I had been distracted, sometimes making choices for what I thought were good reasons, other times I didn’t know what the hell to do, so I just picked something simply for the sake of not facing a dilemma for much longer.