A few years ago, I gave my father a fat stack of stories that I’d written about our family, hoping to connect with him by sharing a bit of myself. What I didn’t know for years after was the stories hurt him deeply, each one feeling like a condemnation when I had written them as love letters. This is one of those stories:
There’s this tiny alcove at the mechanic’s shop, with a garish gold recliner and a soggy box of National Geographics. I am actually delighted with the room and curled now into the recliner with both feet tucked beneath me while the mechanic changes my tires. His sweet, smelly golden retriever has been following me around since I arrived fifteen minutes ago, and now, he sits beside me like a fuzzy end table, mumbling an ancient tennis ball and practically purring while I scratch his head.
This is one of those moments when I am most my father’s daughter, content amid the wrenches, oil filters and battery cables. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, I was scouring the library for resource books on Memoir. I didn't come up with much beyond the handful I'd already dug through, but later the same night, while re-shelving my own books in our new office, I tripped over Tristine Rainer's “Your Life as Story; Discovering the New Autobiography and Writing Memoir as Literature”.
It's one of the books I bought while researching my thesis on Therapeutic Writing a decade ago and the spine is familiar as any other on my shelf, but I haven't cracked it since September of 2002. I picked up the book, flipped through it and laughed. If I'd found it in the library, I'd have declared it “Exactly what I was looking for!” and clutched it to my chest while running for the check-out line. Instead, it was waiting casually to be remembered and rescued from deep shelves five feet from where I sleep.
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To say that I just wrote this chapter is a bit of Creative License a lie. I actually wrote the first draft of it in February of 2008, within a day or two of the actual events taking place. I wasn't trying to craft some larger narrative or thinking about tone and audience. I was doing what I should always be doing – journaling. In fact, there's probably a copy of the original somewhere here since I uploaded the "My Other Blog Is A Pinto" archives a while back.
A dear friend messaged me last night to say that she thought I was brave to have written this piece. My response to that was " there's nothing brave in writing/talking about the moments you got RIGHT. It's writing/talking about the moments you get WRONG that takes chutzpah." and I can tell you without a doubt that I'm going to need a lot of chutzpah going forward, but this chapter, this moment that it captures is absofuckinglutely one of those moments I got right. Out of luck perhaps or shock or the blessing of knowing more transgender people than most parents faced with similar situations.
Good days happen. I'm still working on letting that be ok. I don't set out to make them happen. I don't trust the world enough yet for that, but when they accidentally or organically present themselves, I'm getting better at giving myself permission to enjoy them.
I spent the better part of 12 hours writing on Monday and finished the rough draft of “Twitch”. I woke up with some kind of frenetic energy on Tuesday, perhaps because it was my birthday or maybe “just because” but in a life where for too long everything has gone wrong, days where everything kinda goes right are rare and unexpected. I often find it hard to trust the simple niceness of them.
Yesterday, I posted the draft of “Twitch” here and there, and got some kind feedback. The feeling of being listened to (not just heard casually but actively LISTENED TO) is priceless. The therapeutic writing teacher in me always tries to encourage people to speak up – share their truth – make their voices heard and yet, when I do so I am still occasionally amazed at how that feels.
In the end it was a bloodless affair. Nothing about that has ever felt right . As my friend William Carlos wrote after leaving the hospital that night, “In the morning, I won't even have a scar.”
It seems so wrong that she would, that she COULD go so quietly. No violent outburst. No wicked wound to shock and horrify those who laid eyes and hands upon her on those last hours. It was as if she'd simply slipped out in the night, casually leaving her body behind to distract us all while she made her daring escape.
I still have her favorite bowie knife, tucked away in its leather sheath and stained with the blood from those late-night bouts of cutting.
Few things dare to be as precious as this.
In the end, it was a bloodless affair, except that it wasn't. I have never had occasion to mention it until just now and its not the kind of thing you tell other people anyway. Certainly not a part of any polite conversation.
On the night my daughter died, I started to bleed. And somehow I was thankful for that. I didn't have to befriend her bowie knife. Somehow my body understood Loss in a way that my mind would take months, even years to come to terms with.
Today it has been three years and two months since Ashlie slipped out the side door and left me behind … bleeding and broken. It feels like yesterday and also tomorrow.