In search of story



I’m stuck. I want to write about something but can’t seem to do it; I’ve tried.

The scene is my Aunt Jean’s studio apartment. She is dying of leukemia. Her sister, Edna, and the hospice volunteer are there. It is the day after my father’s funeral, so my California brother is there too. And me.

My aunts, immensely strong-minded women, had made their own ways in a hostile world, one a CPA and the other a PhD. So there, in that tiny space, are three great forces of nature — Jean, Edna, Death. A humidity of exhaustion and grief makes the air thick. The epic warfare between emotion and O’Hern control has become grim hand-to-hand combat. I have walked into this as one being ambushed.

Edna attacks me with cold, angry words. I am in no shape to handle them. I stare at her while I feel something tear inside me. I am conscious of knowing I am not going to be all right.

I do not look back on that moment; I re-live it. It is as immediate to me as the breath I take as I type this.

In that room an entire family history crashed into itself. Past collided with present, living with dying, unkown with known. How do I write of such a room, of such a moment? I can’t seem to do it, yet I know I must. I want it in my book about caregiving.

I admit there is much in that room I don’t want to write about. When I’ve made myself write it, as a writer must do, I’ve ended up with mayhem on the page. Craig’s List makes better reading.

There is my lament. I now return to my writer’s pacing and muttering.