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We Shall Never Speak of this Again.

I’ve written several times about my mother and her impact on my writing life while my beleaguered father gets so little attention–even though he was an equal force.

Well, the last time I visited him, back around the New Year, I decided to tell him I’d written a book. (I admitted to only one of the three. Sometimes secrets should be parcelled out slowly.) We were in the car (a place I am prone to confession) and I said as casually as I could, “Oh, by the way, Dad, I’ve written a book.” I was sitting in the backseat and unable to see his face–the way all proper confessions should be. His wife said something along the lines of, “Really? That’s neat. I wouldn’t have time to write a book. I got too much hosuework to do and the yard takes too much time–remind me to water the flowers when we get home–and I got to mop the floors. I haven’t mopped them since Monday.”

My dad was quiet and I can almost hear him worry that I’ve written about him and his second wife. He lives in fear that I will mention her. But I don’t actually like to cause my dad anxiety, and so I filled the silence with, “I know that saying you want to get a book published is a bit like saying you want to be a rock star, but anyway…that’s what I’ve been up to. Just thought I’d say.”

Finally he says, “You’ve written a book?”

“Yes.”

“Oh. I guess it’s about something then.”

“Yeah. I guess it is.”

“Hmmm.”

End of conversation. Neither a ringing and jubilant endorsement. Nor a vexed and terrified cease and desist order. The subject has not come up again and probably won’t.

So, how supportive are your parents? And does that matter?

5 thoughts on “We Shall Never Speak of this Again.

  1. Marta,

    At eight, filled with aspiration, I began penning my autobiography. One day, about four pages in, my mother came in, looked over my shoulder at the old, old blue DOS screen computer my father (the IBM’er) had given me, and began reading. At page two, she started to cry, saying, “Sarah, I am so, so sorry.”

    That was the first moment I realized words could hold pain. It took many, many years (and lots more devastation) before I would ever again broach the subject of my childhood on paper. I didn’t want to hurt my family through an activity – even one serving as a catharsis for me.

    It’s been 16 years since that day, and I’ve accepted the fact that more often than not – my pens bleed blood. Only recently have I begun sharing my writing with my mother. She continues to be supportive – always there to say congrats! – though, there are pieces I know have hit too close to home. (We never mention those, even after I let her read them.)

    As for my father . . . When I was younger, he would tell me “You can’t be a writer. You’re too smart for that. You’ll never make any money. Be an accountant or an architect instead.” I swore I’d rather die than take his advice and that someday he would understand that my being (or not being) a writer was never a choice. My senior year of high school, my mother sent him my final research paper (one I disguised as a forensic novel.) He called me that night, saying, “Okay. I get it. Go to school – be a writer.”

    He still doesn’t read my works, and I’m still afraid for him to – knowing the pain some of them might cause. But, he understands. That’s about as much support as you can expect from some.

  2. I have not shown my writing to my mother since high school. She was encouraging then, I think. But she used to be an English teacher and she won’t let go of it. I was interviewed last year about a huge writing-related event I coordinate, and I’m very proud of it. Her only comment when I showed her the article was that I should watch my split infinitives. And that was just an interview. I shudder to think what she would do to my stories.

    I was never close to my father; I’m not sure he knew I wrote. I do think it is important to have someone in your life who supports you whole-heartedly. But I think parents and children may be too close – and with too much crazy juice between them – for a true communion. I’d imagine it’s rare.

  3. Sarah and lazym,
    It seems like a terrible joke that I had a parent who would have supported me and have understood and have been interested and all those things other writers and artist long for, but that she is dead. Who knows, maybe parents do us a favor by not reading what we write. But as for grammar obsessives–hey, I teach grammar but I hope if my son shows me a creative effort I don’t nitpick the details.

    I really believe that most parents don’t wish to cause us harm–I have to believe this for my own child sake’s–but it is so hard to see sometimes that the kindness we wanted from our parents is not always the same one our own children would wish to see.

  4. Pingback: Sharing, Sort of… « writing in the water

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