Monday, March 3, 2014

"How Can I Remember?"

"Yes, it's true." I responded to the man who heard a rumor that I was leaving my amazing job, at my amazing company to write about my father.

Perhaps people are surprised because they only know me in one context. There is only the face of the work I do and the context of corporate America. I am reminded that we don't really KNOW anyone at all. That's why I started this whole project in the first place.

So for those of you who are kind enough to continue reading and indulging me, here's the plan:

1. Over the next three months, I will focus on writing what I remember about my father. These are memories I've worked harder to keep than I care to admit. These are glimpses and images but not necessarily truth.

In my family, truth is  and was sacred. This idea that a memory could be untrue, an interpretation, or something else entirely remains a great struggle for me.

The worst thing that used to happen to me growing up was when adults would tell me

a) "I don't remember that,"
b) "That never happened," or my favorite
c) "You were too young to remember."

The reality is, that I remember everything. When my father died, the worst pain was forgetting something about him. Each time I struggled to remember felt like his dying over and over again. So, I promised myself to hold these pictures in my mind, to keep him alive as long as I could. Starting tomorrow, I will start from the beginning of what I remember.

2. I will interview people who knew my father. He was a lawyer, father and friend to many. He was also, the bad ex-husband, the absent father, the oldest son, the beatnik, the activist, and the writer. Or so I'm told. To complete these pictures, I have over 40 interviews to conduct.

Join me here as I ramble about the process and draft prose that is hopefully not too pretentious. Is it true, you ask? I'm not sure if that matters. More than anything, I need to grab onto something, anything that can tell me who he was, and decide what that means for who I am.

Wish me luck.

Side comment that I can't figure out what to do with right now:

Last year I had the privilege to read a The Sense of Ending by Julian Barnes (unusual as most Julian Barnes books are dreadful slogs for me). He explores the concept of memory in a deep meditation. The idea that memory either true or invention - becomes who we are. When we are alone, in the dark, with nothing but ourselves, not tossing spouse, nor snoring dog, nor kicking toddler, can take it from us. Memory is the only thing that truly belongs to us. No one else is entitled to change who we know ourselves to be. It is why challenging a child's memory should be a crime.

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