Not all of my writing practice turns out great. This one wasn’t so hot. I’m sharing it because, well, that’s a much more real picture of what goes into writing than just showing you the refined, selected parts that “looks good”.
tell about putting your mother in a home
On an otherwise beautiful day we approach the shelter. Not so much a castle as a fortress. A virtually impenetrable waste of space that, instead of making a place for caring, for help, for hope, for nurture, has become in my mind, in her mind, a burden. It has transformed from the unlikely to the inevitable, and with the change there is no reason to think that it will be welcoming and comforting when we take mother there and move in. She would rather stay with us, I know. Even more, she would like to stay at her own place. But, realistically, she is not safe there. And while her physical health is somewhat deteriorating (it wouldn’t be an issue if it wasn’t, obviously), but the greater issue is my own, and my wife’s mental health. We spend far too much time and effort thinking of what she’s doing, and how she’s being, and whether she has had lunch or fallen or perhaps forgotten to take her diabetes medication after all those reminders you put up on the post-it notes all over anywhere.
So, what else is there? Hatred, distrust; fear of the staff. Disappointment at me, true; but she hasn’t said that. She probably won’t say it – she’s a mom, after all, and moms generally don’t like to harm their sons, so I expect she’ll keep it bottled up and not say anything at all. She’ll just sit in her chair, shoulders slumping, hand shakily waving in the way she has had in the last year or so, and she’ll tell me “oh, no, it’s all right, I understand. Besides, it’s been hard with Jim gone, I barely know what to do with myself during the days anyway. This could be good for me, and I can learn how to play a couple of board games. You know, I think they’ve even got a trip planned to the Chicago Pier next month. I think I’ll see if I can sign up for that.” She’s putting on a reasonable show, but I know it hurts her.
It hurts that she’s getting old. It hurts that she’s forgetting. and it hurts that she doesn’t see the impact she has on us. She says she sees it – but because she doesn’t see those quiet moments, when my wife cries in the shower, or I go and punch the beanbag in the closet, or when the kids start to beg off going to visit grandma because they think her house stinks, I just can’t bring myself to tell her the truth. That it’s okay for her to go live there. That even more, even more morbid I would be okay for her to just die. Wow, that sounds harsh. “Die”. Pass away, move on, depart. Those are all softer, gentler. Aren’t they also deceptive? Aren’t they also ignoring the reality of what death is?
Aren’t they papering over the harshness, the suddenness of death? Die – a barking syllable – so quiet, so abrupt, like the act itself. Die.
So, you see it?
Commentary: why didn’t I like this writing exercise? I guess, looking back, I never felt in a flow. I felt like I was trying. Like I was working at it, rather than letting it happen. I had some images in my mind, about the abruptness of death and how we contrast that with the soft words we use to describe it, about the cognitive dissonance we actively create by using such pretty language to describe the dying process. But I didn’t get there. I didn’t lose control. I didn’t go for the jugular. I simply stopped, not even when I was satisfied, but I just…Stopped. So I think the dissatisfaction of the exercise was that I never really felt like it completed. Like sex that approaches orgasm, but never quite gets to the top of the mountain, so to speak. I could see the end: I had a bit of a vision in sight. I just gave up.
So that’s why it wasn’t a great experience. But it’s real to tell you that not all writing is great. More often than not it’s not great. It’s not polished. It doesn’t flow.
But that’s why I write. I write the bad days to get to the good days. I write the shit work to get to the gravy wall [ask my dad about that one]. I haul hundred-pound loads nine-tenths of the way up a mountain, with the end in sight, just to give up and turn around more often than I complete the journey. But when I do– Damn, nothing feels quite like that.