Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sh-h-h-h! It's A Secret

I grew up in a family with lots of secrets. Most people do. The secret I am thinking about today, though, is my father's job. No one in my family knew what he did. This is because he had a government job in an agency that was all about secrets. This was a long time ago; he retired in the mid-seventies and died in the early nineties. It is old history, but I think your family tends to remain new history, no matter how many years have passed.

I've been realizing that probably one reason I find it so difficult to "be" in the world with my writing, to show it off, to do appearances, to be all razzle-dazzle online, is that I had no example of a parent "being" in the world with his or her work. My mother was a homemaker--a mother staying home was common back then. I saw everyday what she did--though I only became both impressed and grateful after I'd spent many years as an adult. Her work in the house, however, was necessarily in-bound, not out in the world. She also painted pictures, and I think she really could have painted professionally. But, with a few small exceptions, she was too self-conscious and uncertain to be able to show her oils and watercolors to anyone besides family and friends.

My father could not take his work out into the world at all, except within the realm of the agency he worked for. And while he loved and believed in his job, I think this hurt him. He was reticent to begin with--I sometimes say he was a silent man in a silent job. But it must be painful to never receive recognition, even in your own family, for what you do.

My surprise New Year's gift to myself is the sudden understanding that I have taken my father's invisibility and made it my own. My father was not a secret agent--he was an engineer--but it turns out that I am, even though I am writing this blog. I constantly think of taking it down. After all, what if somebody reads it?!?!?!

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