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28 Sep

It’s My Story And I’ll Cry If I Want To

You need to get over this.

I hope you’ll get over this and start writing about other stuff again soon.

It’s terrible what happened, but you need to remember that there’s worse. You didn’t lose a child.

Some people get hate mail. I get hate mail, but I also get mail of a slightly different strain: well-intentioned mail that aims at constructive criticism but lands somewhere in the area of a belly punch.

You need to get over this.

There are worse things.

You didn’t lose a child.

I don’t know if the authors meant for their words to hurt, but hurt they did. I can no more make myself get over my grief than I can make myself stop loving my husband and my children, nor do I want to: my grief over my father’s death is part of me now, part of the emotional landscape that undergirds my whole lifeworld. But my critics – if I can call them that – didn’t mean that I should resolve my grief. They meant that I should stop writing about it. Because, it seems, the death of a parent, while painful, doesn’t warrant long-form narrative consideration. It might be sad, sure, but it’s not the death of a child.

15 Sep

The Unbearable Lightness Of Letters

A friend called me, last week, after I’d written about struggling through the process of sorting through some of my father’s papers.

“After my aunt died,” she said, “after we went through all of her things, I immediately went home and dug up all the old love letters from old boyfriends and notes and letters and things that even mention my old love life and tore them to shreds. I just don’t want my husband and kids to ever see them. I don’t want to die and have them find them. I just don’t.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I know what you mean.” I do know what she meant. But also, I don’t. I understand the impulse to protect – if that’s what one is doing – one’s loved ones from the full force of one’s history, as this is recorded in letters and notes and photographs. What I don’t know is, whether that impulse is the right one.