THE WRITER’S LIFE
A young friend of mine recently reminisced, pondered and rued on Facebook: Where are the guys who call to ask how your day is, if you’ve eaten, and what you’re doing later?
I thought about that in a bipolar writer way, both the poet and the horror author, in my potting shed, where I write, and where I keep my tools: A pen and paper, the typewriter, an axe, a spade, a hoe, and packets of seeds…
THESE THREE WALLS
Second verse, same as the first, as we fear the ringing of the phone.
Dark poetry – or verse with more than one interpretation – is a medium I’m enjoying, as I’m finding I can do as much with it as a good twist in the tail of one of my stories. My dad’s been deteriorating over the last few weeks, so writing about what’s going on in my life is difficult and without resolution.
Dad was a gardener, usually tending the ornamental garden of a very large house. The house also had a kitchen garden, which is where dad seemed happiest, raising vegetables for the table.
There are many moments in life when I remember dad finding me: When I helped out on a gardening project and he paid me out of what little money he got; when I was stranded in Chicago after 9/11 and he called me in my hotel room; and when I was homeless, and he came and found me in McDonald’s. A man of few words, he never needed many; I just knew he was there. Now he’s much the same.
Then there was him, mum, and so many friends when I got knocked over exactly 33 years ago today, when I was 16 and spent several weeks in hospital, like my dad has lately.
In the school holidays we didn’t go away much, but running around that country estate where the gardens were dad’s, I always knew where to find him. Whenever an argument had kicked off in the confinement of a summer holiday family home, when it felt like my mum and sister were ganging up on me, I always knew where to find dad, in the potting shed.
I can’t find dad now, and he’s as lost as I was back then. The generations are reversed, and now I know how I made him feel when I did weird things, or wouldn’t be held accountable for the things I did.
On the other side of the sandwich, it’s my son’s birthday this week. I designed my own card:
I had it sent to me first, so that I could add a personal message:
I don’t get to say this as often as I should, but I’m proud of you and the young man you’ve become.
I’m hardly the model father, but I’m proud to have you as a friend as well as my son.
You are not doing it wrong if no-one knows what you’re doing
Three generations, all with their own deeply personal space; each in their own potting shed of the mind; one in a garden, one with a typewriter, and one with a computer; each of them rarely picking up the phone. I know both slices of bread which hold the Marmite sandwich together are there on a platter. I hope the other two know that the other two are too.
And in among all this, my mum phoned me at 4 O’clock this afternoon and I was in bed. I answered, woke up, and she apologised for waking me. That’s how things are. I didn’t get the chance to explain I’d crashed out in the afternoon because I’m up at this time, writing, because I can’t sleep, thinking of dad. And there’s the other side of the family, besides the mother ship; the jam sandwich of sister and daughter, all on the same plate as the Marmite.
Family picnics, and those with friends who are mi familia: Somewhere, someone is glad you do what you do, even if it’s only you who bangs on about it to yourself. It’s a personal and human sense of family survival.
Where are the guys who call to ask how your day is, if you’ve eaten, and what you’re doing later? They’re there, in their own place, wondering if they should call.