Why I Suddenly Decided to Become a Writer
Our lives can be happy and fulfilling or miserable and unsatisfactory, adventurous or mundane, with children and family or without. We may be rich, healthy and beautiful or unhealthy trolls that live in the gutter. One thing is for sure, whether a life is long or short, it goes by in a flash. Fortunately, it takes a few decades before we realise the brevity of our existence on this earth, or we would never bother to accomplish anything that requires effort.
Sometimes, it takes an event, something catastrophic and unexpected that lays reality bare, for us to see and when we see it, we can do nothing but pretend that we didn’t see anything of importance at all. Except we have and what we have glimpsed cannot be unseen. In my case, it all started when I stood over my dad’s coffin as it was being lowered in the ground. I remember being incredulous. How is it possible that MY dad who I rely on, my biggest fan and trusted confidant be gone? It was barely 20 years since I had left home and he was still a young man that chased women and could free dive at dizzying depths. Now he was in a box, and he looked so old, grey and of course, so dead.
At the time, I had a business and two demanding toddlers in my hands, and even though the passing of my dad was devastating, I had no time to philosophise about it, past my initial shock.
A few years passed and the next to wave the family goodbye was my only remaining grandma. She did stick around 93 years, and it was not exactly unexpected for someone of that age to move to a better place; still, my rock-solid world was beginning to show cracks. The next to go, only a year later was my mom, and suddenly I was an orphan. They say that you don’t become an adult until you lose your parents. Is this what was happening to me? Is staring at my mortality at the core of what is required to become an adult?
With both my parents gone, I was free to do whatever I wanted without and criticism or admonishment. I could reinvent my history, and nobody would be the wiser, but the opposite happened.
I created my own boundaries that were not far off from what had been initially erected by my parents when I was ten. I also became the keeper of the family records, telling and retelling the stories to my daughters so that they would remember exactly how things were when I was little. Suddenly, it was my responsibility to record history, and they had to know the truth. Why may you ask? Well, I don’t exactly know. It just felt like the right thing to do.
Naturally, I shared this responsibility with my sister, who I relied on to collaborate my stories so that my kids did not think that I was fibbing, and I did the same for her. Then she was abruptly taken from me as well, and I was elevated to the ONLY keeper of the records.
Anyone that has been in this position will tell you that the degree of isolation one feels is sublime. The thoughts that invaded my fearless person were very fearful. What will become of my still young children should anything happen to me? What if I become sick or disabled? Who will make decisions for me? I remember running by the docks and thinking that if I got hit by a car, nobody would claim my body. But worse than all of that was the thought that my story and the stories of my family would disappear with me. My daughters and my sister’s daughter would be rootless and clueless. All the things that were in my mind, the lessons I had learned the adventures I had, they would never know. I would disappear like dust in the wind. My memory would be one dimensional, immature like a photograph that fades with time until it becomes part of a forgotten album.
These thoughts became the source of brief panic episodes coupled with existential angst that would not leave me alone. Stories, advice and anecdotes were crowding the exits and making my fingertips tingle until I could take it no more, and I began to write. With every article and every book that I gave birth to, my anxiety lessened. Recorded words and stories have a magical strength. My daughters can judge me and my life, not only as their mother but when they are older, as a fellow woman. My grandchildren will also know me and not just as a shrivelled old lady that drools and retells the same stories. They will meet their grandmother as the kid who brought home the stray cats that she rescued from the neighbourhood bins. They will know my mother as the woman who played the piano beautifully and who woke us up in the middle of the night so that we could admire the full moon.
Many of these stories have now been written. Many more are waiting their turn. My books have made me, and the departed rest-of-the-family immortal. And there is one more thing. I got to tell my version of the story, and nobody is around to dispute it.