I wanted to share some U.S. Mother’s Day personal thoughts here – two days early. I choose to do that because, well, this is the first year my mother will not be here for one. Also, I don’t feel this post is quite appropriate for Sunday itself.
I don’t mind others celebrating, but I wish I could’ve “blocked” Mother’s Day just for myself this year. The barrage of ads that have been landing in my inbox seemingly hourly reminding me of the day and how I need to remember Mom with flowers or something, get deleted unread by me the moment I see them. They have led me only to remember one year ago: Mother’s Day 2015.
That day, from Britain, I had FaceTimed Mom over in Pennsylvania. I had expected an innocuous “Mother’s Day chat.” After thanking me for our card and flowers, she said she felt a bit under the weather. My father had booked dinner out, but she didn’t feel up to going to a restaurant.
This morning I’m driving my now widower father, and my 44 year old sister (she lived with my parents, and so now lives with my father: let’s please not go there right now), up to our (my wife and mine’s – and I know that’s ungrammatical, but I don’t care right now) place in the Catskills for a few days.
We probably don’t have to do this, but I desperately want to. Dad agreed. He needs a different view and I think he knows that.
And I have to get the hell away for a while from this (my now late mother’s) October 26 place of death. Increasingly, I can’t bear this f-cking house. I never wanted them to move here to Pennsylvania (it’s not about PA itself; but let’s not go there either right now), and my late mother is “everywhere” here still, of course.
I’ve been writing with some gusto in recent days. Helpful in that was keeping mostly off Twitter and the web during that span. I got an entire chapter finished, other bits newly added, and others tidied up.
For reference and continuity checking (I hate stupid oversights and petty errors), I’d also simultaneously picked up Passports (the first book) and re-read large sections of it. I hadn’t done that quite as systematically and critically since it had been published in late November. In doing so, I have stumbled on a couple of issues.
First, I found myself reflecting on chunks of it where I thought, “Gee, that’s damn good. I wrote that?” And on others I found myself thinking, “Uh, that’s fine, but I could’ve written that differently or another way.” But what’s done is done regardless; there is no going back.
Worse, I am now also understanding how our personal lives as we write may impact what and how we write. My generally downer mood since our girlfriend Kam’s sudden death in early February has been leaving its ugly imprint on the style and tone of the sequel. In fact, “down” is often not a strong enough word: “angry,” “tearful,” and “depressed” at times are probably far more accurate descriptions.
In the last few weeks, I’ve also been exchanging emails with her younger sister: they were incredibly close, so she is, unsurprisingly, devastated. We’ve been recalling happy memories, but also discussing grief. The other day I mentioned how for a time in February I could barely face the sequel’s manuscript: it had become painful for me even to look at it.
I wrote her that every time I sat down in front of the PC, I kept visualizing Kam in the pages. (One of the terrible pitfalls of real people as any inspiration for fictional characters.) There was one horrible moment I became so upset I considered giving up completely. But then I reminded myself that Kam would never have been in favor of that. I could almost hear her gently admonishing me, “C’mon, Rooooob. Don’t be silly. You have to finish…” I also wrote her sister:
I began to realize that grief must be forced to lead to something worthwhile. I told myself I’d dedicate this one to her, and make it worth that dedication. I’ve been told the first one is “good.” Well, I am determined this next one will be better.
Brave words, I know. As we also know, conflict and tension are necessary in tales worth the reading. But as I review sections of Passports and compare them to stretches of the in-progress sequel, the latter is unmistakably darker: it’s stuffed with nightmares, stalking, other ugliness and viciousness, clinical depression and fatal illness. And all of that in merely HALF of the planned total novel.
It is still rooted in varieties of real happenings, but this second volume is shaping up overall as harsher and bleaker than the first book. I’ve got to be careful here. I realize why I’d unexpectedly drifted in this direction, and it has to stop.
The first book certainly has its seriousness, but it also has its “fun” and “optimism.” I don’t want to lose that balance. I’ve got 50,000 words left to begin to “lighten up” the sequel somewhat. Kam was never a “downer” person. 🙂
Hope you’re having a good Wednesday, wherever you are….