Monday, December 7, 2009

you don't want to read this one

I was going to write about decorating the tree with my kids tonight, how the two-year-old kept sneaking candy canes off the tree and going off to eat them. It amazes me, how quickly she can unwrap and eat them.

And then, I started reading a book I picked up at the library this afternoon, a book I'd had to request and had been looking forward to for quite some time. I'd heard the writing was beautiful. It was. The story sucked me right in (even though I'd meant to do the dishes after I got the kids in bed) and even made me laugh out loud. Then, on page 17, I put the book down and almost didn't pick it up again. Some books ought to come with warnings.

It's my own fault. I don't like spoilers, so I avoid reading reviews that give anything important away. I've encountered situations I wished I hadn't before, but I've never had a story hit me like this. Actually, there were only a few little sentences, one in particular; the main character can't think about her mom "seeping." Her parents have just been killed in a car accident. Those sentences triggered memories, and the memories hit me in waves for the rest of the book. I did finish the book, and I'm not going to say which book it was. Reading is such a personal experience. I thought it would be better to finish the book than face the memories, but they won't leave me alone. So, I'm writing through them.

The paramedics said my mom should have been killed instantly, but her adrenaline kept her alive long enough for my dad and my brother to make it to the accident and talk to her. Almost as soon as she started talking though, she died. They didn't even get her to the ambulance.

I have three sisters, and my dad thought we should fix her hair and put on her make-up for the viewing. I could see his reasoning; we knew better than anyone how she wore her hair and make-up. But did he know what he was asking? I don't think so. We had to look at, to cover-up wounds I wouldn't have looked at otherwise. I had to sit down because I felt dizzy when the mortician described everything we were hiding from the people who would see her; her body was broken in so many places. I couldn't keep my hand steady when I lined her eyebrows, so Michelle did that while I covered up the bruises and "seeping" places.

I missed her. Of course I missed her. She hadn't wanted me to get married when I had because she thought 21 was too young, so I'd promised her I would finish school. I didn't know I'd get so sick with my pregnancies. We had our first baby about 10 months after our wedding, and I didn't go back to school until the month after Mom died. I threw my energy, my grief, and my anger into a creative writing course because writing has always been my answer to problems like this. A week or two into the class, we had to write about a personal experience with a turning point, and I wrote about a phone call from one of my sisters. She wanted to divide up Mom's stuff, and I didn't want to. I'm a very non-controversial person, and I argued with her. The next time we met for class, our professor said he wanted to read the assignments he'd liked best and discuss what made them stand out. I was very surprised when he read mine last and even more surprised when he cried in front of us.

I keep erasing sentences about this professor and his class because they are almost as hard to write about as my mother. I took his class nine and a half years ago. He took the time to point out my faults and encouraged me to keep writing. Months after the class was over, I received a phone call from an organization looking for film script writers because he'd recommended me. I didn't know anything about writing film scripts, so I declined, but his confidence in me boosted my confidence. Every time I saw him on campus, he asked me if I was writing. He would look me in the eye. "Write."

I finished my degree. It took me longer to get a bachelor's than it takes some people to get a doctorate, but I finished.

I didn't write this to convince anyone they shouldn't read the book I read or any other book. I love reading. I love how two people can read the same book and come away with two different stories. Grieving is the same, only it's a lot harder. One of my friends has been having a really hard time since her little girl died. It was very sudden. My friend's mom came up to me at the viewing and said I knew better than anyone what her daughter was going through. I disagree. I know that what she, what they are going through is hard, but I have never buried a daughter or a granddaughter. Even if I had, I wouldn't react the same way anymore than they have reacted in the same way. I think it is dangerous to assume you know what someone is going through because you've experienced something similar. And what good is my experience anyway? It isn't good for anything unless I can see past it to listen and validate someone else and what they are going through.

So, if you went ahead and read this post, thanks for listening. Writing it out helped.


  1. Of course I wanted to read it. Sending internet hugs your way.

    Your new background is pretty.

  2. Hugs noted and appreciated. And thanks, I like it.

  3. Thanks for writing it! It brought tears to my eyes and I hope that you listen to your professor and keep "writing", you are so good at it!

  4. Thanks, Maile. I write almost every day.

  5. Thank you for sharing, Myrna. Everything else I've thought to write here sounds either meaningless or trite, so I'm just going to stick with that. Thank you for these thoughts.

  6. As I'm swallowing the lump in my throat, all I can say is thank goodness for things like writing for helping people to work through feelings of grief, sadness, anger and other emotions.

  7. Oh, Myrna. I'm supposed to be on blog break but I missed you and your blog so much, I peeked. And through a series of clicks from your recent posts, I ended up here.

    I had no idea you went through all this, especially your mother.

    You are amazing. And strong. And you've lifted me up and given me something to help me work through with my own grieving. Thank you so much!

    I'm so blessed to have gotten to know you and become your friend. Thank you!

  8. You are so brave to share something so personal and close to you. I am so glad I decided to go back to the beginning of your blog postings and read through everything. REading this blog post I can see that you write with passion and amazing intensity. I look forward to reading your fiction because no doubt someday I will get to buy your book!