I implore you. If you feel the calling, you MUST write. There are too many people who depend on you to share the gift you’ve been entrusted with. It’s vital.
Day before yesterday, I freaked about writing my dad’s story…What qualifies me to write it? How do I finish it when my dad can’t talk? Am I good enough?
There were so many questions and feelings of inadequacy. I reached out to my amazing writer friend, Bridget. She knows how to give a voice to others because she writes people’s stories. I knew she understood what it was like to reach a point of vagueness, or sheer terror, and feelings of inadequacy…and still she wrote on. She reminded me that if I didn’t write his story, then my dad truly would not have a voice, especially now that he can’t talk at all.
Today, I went to the nursing home and read my dad another chapter of his story….a story I know that has deep meaning for my daddy. I read it aloud to him, and he crumbled and cried. Was I looking to make him cry? No, of course not. But what this revealed to me was the power of hearing the voice of a vaulted man. This is a man who never showed emotion of any kind. This is a man who used alcohol to not feel pain…not feel emotion…in an era where men were to be invincible over any kind of vulnerability. When he cried, he showed me that he had been real and honest with me. When he cried, I knew he had heard his own voice out loud. When he cried, I knew I had captured the essence of what he was feeling. He had entrusted me with that part of him that revealed to himself he was human. I remember earlier this summer my dad had said, “You gave me my life back.” He needed me to be his voice. He desperately wanted to be a part of this world and to belong.
Lastly, when I left, I reminded him, “Daddy, you’ve done some great things in your life. You have left a legacy for your grand children and great grand children. I am proud of what you have accomplished. I am proud to be your daughter because you are honest and kind and good.” He mouthed the words thank you with some sounds, squeezed my hand tight fiercely and kissed me.
Yes, he made mistakes…some really bad mistakes in which he felt the deepest darkest shame. But the darkness had not defined him. As a writer, I got to reveal that the shame was only part of the story…that alcohol was the antagonist for a short time. But the real Ernest, the one who overcame the darkness had risen and become a victor in his own story. His reveal had provided a path for others.
This, my writer friends, is your mission, giving a voice to those whom can not speak or do not know how to speak. This is how we heal our world, one story at a time.
I’ve been working on writing my dad’s biography for a few months. What started out as asking him basic questions like lineage and favorite holidays, and birthdays, has turned into a healing journey both for my dad and our relationships with our family and a story of man’s triumph over the darkest evils. I want to record this journey because it’s been amazing, and because if it can work with a man who has been vaulted for most of his life, then it can work for anyone.
Today, I used poetry. I took the simplest of forms of poetry and used it as a springboard to have a conversation. I would ask him for adjectives that described him as a boy. Each adjective led me to a story of his boyhood. And then I’d ask him some verbs that describe him, and those words would lead me on another journey of my father. What I loved was that I could hear his giggly, adventurous tone come through his stories
What a great tool it was to have to learn more about my dad. I am looking forward to doing this more with other poetry tools to see where this journey takes me. I’m so excited!