Dita Parker

Friday, December 13, 2013

Running in the family

My aunt contacted me. She said she'd found something among my paternal grandmother's belongings I'd want to see. That my aunt had unearthed whatever it was I knew nothing about didn't surprise me. Geography and the uneasy rapport my mother had with her in-laws in general and her mother-in-law in particular resulted in my never being close to my father's side of the family as a child, a gap we've done our best to bridge in my adulthood.

My paternal grandmother was a complex woman who'd lived through happy and hard times alike. She was immensely grateful for all the good in her life but forgiveness was not her first impulse. In good and bad, her memory was infallible. She would recite lengthy poems, and often did on someone's special occasion, and when she spoke you got the impression she'd thoroughly thought through what she wanted to say before she uttered a single syllable. And you got the impression you weren't hearing the half of it.

What my aunt sent me only cemented that impression. My grandmother knew I wrote. I never knew so did she. Pages upon pages upon pages of thoroughly thought out lines I never knew existed. And here I thought that I was the black sheep, right-handed with some of the athletic and artistic inclinations running in both sides of the family but someone who'd rather be writing.

I don't know why she chose not to tell me. Was writing just a pastime? A private passion? A shattered or buried dream, just one of the things countless women of her generation couldn't cultivate because it simply wasn't an option, profession-wise? Where did all those lines come from? What was she thinking and how did she feel and did she have someone to share those words with, a reader, another writer? 

I stare at those pages and she's with me, breathing in every word. And then I lose her all over again. We'll never talk about this. I'll never get to ask all I badly want to ask and it makes me sad and it makes me angry and it makes me ashamed of myself because it's a selfish, childish wish. If she'd wanted to share she could have. It also gives me solace and satisfaction of the mischievous kind to think that maybe this was too important, too personal to share. My writing life was mine and mine alone. And hers was obviously none of my business. That is so true to character my first impulse is to forgive even when my gut reaction is anger and a vague sense of disappointment and regret. We had this in common and we never got to share it. And that's how she wanted it.

I hope she found what she was looking for when she sat down to write. I hope she dreamed and soared and reveled, lost in those innermost thoughts, that inner life that was hers and hers alone, that immovable, unshakable core we all possess. It's beautiful and it's powerful and I've witnessed people pull through the most awful of events and circumstances without losing their minds, hope, integrity or dignity because they never lost touch with it even if it seemed they'd lost everything else. Promise me you'll cherish and nurture yours, whether you're sharing it with all of humanity or never telling a soul, whether you call it soul, heart, spirit, grit... Whatever you call it, you know what I'm talking about. So promise me. Promise.

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