One of the songs my daughter and I used to sing was “My Favorite Things.” The fanciful notion of roses, kitten whiskers and packages helping us through the tough spots in life has always appealed to both of us. Funny thing is that sometimes life brings you so low that pretty things alone can’t help. When I get to that point, I either have to cry or write. Sometimes I do both.
Last year I wrote a short story about a package that had been left on my doorstep. As summer approaches and I feel the demanding call to get back to writing again, I have returned to the story. The discipline of writing during the school year doesn’t come easy for many reasons (ok, some are excuses): job-demands and mother-demands crowd the top of that list. As a teacher, I watch others write and support others as they write. And as often as I make a commitment to write while they are writing or complete my own homework, I break that promise to myself and complete tasks that insist attention. This summer, I’ve returned to the firm commitment to seize time for my own writing and my own needs.
Back to the story: that package left on my doorstep held a life in leftovers. I saw the box on an October afternoon about six years ago and after glancing at the lack of a return address, I elected to ignore it. Somehow I knew who it was from: my father’s wife. She packed up the things from his former life and the things she did not value. I wish I could say that it was a lovely gesture, choosing to share with me some of my father’s past. But I can’t give her that credit. For starters, the paintings he promised to me weren’t in the box. Instead of providing comfort, its contents, reminding me that I loved an absent father, would explode my life into pieces, the shrapnel lodged in my heart. I’ve cried every October since.
The story of the package is one of a series of life with my largely absent father who died suddenly, a year filled with losses. Here’s the thing, I’ve struggled with the story because I don’t want it to sound like some mushy, pity-me memoir indulgence. Plenty of kids in my neighborhood have had absent parents or worse. But the story needs to be told, or should I say, I need to tell my story, so I can move from victim to survivor. Hiding the broken part of me has left me one step short of healing. I wonder if we hide our broken moments, our broken parts, can any of us heal?
Though I still return to the grief of a deep loss that started over 40 years ago when he first left, I know I want to stop sliding backward. I know I am strong enough to move forward. As I write and rewrite, I rebuild myself into that someone stronger. It’s summer and the days are filled with sun and time. I am ready.
What broken moments and parts could you offer as a gift to help someone heal?