Labor Day 2013
The sin in not writing is the risk you run of forgetting the individual events that make up the whole of your life. The last month stands bright and pointillistic, but only registers from a distance. My step-grandfather died, a complicated mercy as he had spent the last year fading into dementia. I hadn’t known him all that well, having met him for the first time in 1983, but I spent a summer at their house in American Falls, and we fished and watched basketball. I missed the disciplinarian ardor of his own youth, and my impression followed the pattern it often does with grandparents. I would reminisce about their kindness and patience, while the parents flicker a cynical flourish of their eyes (you couldn’t call it an eye-roll proper), and drop some comment about how that’s not really how I remember them.
My children spent a week with my parents, tending to the farm, doing their best not to be bloodletted by mobs of hungry chickens and hordes of unstable vespids. I wonder how they will remember this time when the time comes to tell the story of their grandparents to their own brood. Granddad taught me to drive, my son says. Which car? I ask. It’s an important sort of detail, because learning to drive is one of those memory anchors dropped in a port of call. You usually remember it without having to write it down.
I tell him that years ago, I had spent a summer with my own granddad, and out of the blue he had asked me to take his truck out a few miles to test the CB radio. I didn’t know how to drive a stick, but he said I’d be fine. I knew the basics, and I knew slow. Somehow I got back in one piece.
Both kids want to know what happened when I was disrespectful or interrupted. I do not spend much time with them anymore (I’m happy to co-write the indictment), so when we are off on our own, they have a million questions and the rules of the game demand that they start asking the next question well before I’ve finished answering the first. I can’t imagine him being impatient. Oh, you missed that stage, I reply with a flourish of my eyes.
Oh, I do wish, I wish, I wish, I wish. What? Did you know John Kennedy Toole’s manuscript was rejected every single time he submitted it during his lifetime? It was good, and he was talented, they said, but they didn’t see the point. That feels like our lives. They can be wonderful and rich and feel utterly meaningless when presented to an editor.
Last week I went sailing on Shilshole Bay, and said my blessings to the wind I hadn’t discovered this particularly expensive thrill when I was younger, god knows where I’d be. I ordered a new snowboard when I got home, just to calm my humors. I played golf with co-workers, I hiked up the Enchantments to see a wedding, I got all As in my first quarter, I didn’t break any bones and I still have my hair. But, fine, I see the point of those temperamental publishers. It probably should mean something, after all.
There’s a poker game next week, a conference in North Carolina in October, a gig in Yakima, another promotion on the horizon, an empty liquor cabinet and a week in Whistler, but a tendency towards maudlin eye movement. I’m making it worse, aren’t I.
I bought a Surface RT because it came with Microsoft Office, I used my employee status to get a University of Washington Library Card so that I do not have to spend $500 per quarter on college textbooks, my dehydrator is running round the clock and the house smells of herbs, flowers, mushrooms and savings. I can count the number of times I have really and truly despised myself on less than two hands this year. At home, I mostly wear crocs and v-neck white tees, which suggests a rich inner life.