While I was writing my last post, “Fruitcake,” I was plotting “Fruitcake II,” intending to suggest that my grandmother was the fruitcake, making myself as snarky as the fruitcake nay-sayers. But I wasn’t sure I should do it. To write such commentary about my grandmother seemed dishonorable.
The NYT sensed my writer’s dilemma and on 1 December published a piece by Ken Budd, who told of similar misgivings and maintained that “honest writing” (his memoir) wins over “feelings of the dead” (his father’s). Helpful, but not quite a perfect parallel since he admired his father and I am, at best, ambivalent about Grandma. Also I am that private person he says his father was. Writing anything remotely personal makes me squirmy, and I know when I write about family I’m writing about me at my life’s foundation; I cringe, knowing that putting life into words — even if no one else reads them – is a way of baring it.
But that precisely is the reason to write, yes? To bare — and bear — life?
Yet enough baring already. With a cosmic chorus of self-revelation reverberating through our quivering psyches, why would I want to add my little paragraphs about my grandmother? Because I am addicted to the writing process, indebted to it, intrigued by it. It dims the din.
I do care that I’m exposing my dead grandmother — and me — to strangers. I do care about her right to rebuttal, which is inconvenient for her right now. But I care more about finding the words. Maybe I’m becoming a writer.