I'm working on an essay about my father. This is truly an impossible story to write. Here are the questions:
Is this story about me or him?
Where does it start? When Claire (his first born daughter) died? or when he got sick or my childhood when he was retreating?
What's the climax? there have been so many, every year a new episode?
I'm not sure what my attitude about the whole thing is... am I self pitying? over dramatic? treating my family trauma as a commodity? ambivalent? or even still just disgusted with the man, sorry for him?
So that leads me to the question of whether its time to write this piece, because there is nothing redemptive here yet, and everyone want the redemptive quality. That he doesn't die, or that if he does die, it wasn't in vain. Maybe this essay is about death... as it approaches.
Anyway, I'm working the essay from the beginning and it's slow, the momentum isn't there yet. So I would like to do a quick exercise and jump to a "what I'm thinking" portion somewhere in the middle.
Every time something like this happens, and it happens a few times a year--a call from my sister saying that Dad was supposed to pick her up but never showed, my mother calls to tell me Dad is in the hospital again for a fall or an infection, I talk to him on the phone and he's fucked up and slurring again--I wonder if this is the time he will die. Is this it? And I hope it is. Now, to say that I want my father to die would exactly capture the complicity of the feeling. When I think about his funeral, when I compose the eulogy that I will give for him, I love him again. It's easy to love him when he's the accumulation of his life, genius eating itself, a winter that blew in at midlife and never lifted, a man who's self destruction was as generous an act as he could muster, moving away so that his family might not feel the same excruciating pain he did. But when I sit across the table from him and he's slipping in and out of consciousness because of all the meds he abuses, when I smell the faint smell of shit on him, when I see that nothing I say to him lands and he's looking right through me and tells me he needs more guns for personal protection, it is so easy to hate him. I find myself imagining his funeral in the mountains often. And I've nearly completed my speech.