Wednesday, July 30, 2008


You know how when you encounter a situation suddenly, the first words that pop into your head are the truest ones? Last week I went to visit my parents' grave site. I had only been there twice since my mother passed away back in January--quite a different rate of visitation than with my father, who I visited frequently and even obsessively for the first couple of years after he died, sixteen years ago.

Thinking to rectify the numbers imbalance, I drove to the cemetery, got out of the car, ambled down the hillside to their resting place, looked at the plaque holding both of their names and thought, "Well, that was exhausting."

And that is the truth of it. My parents, both good people, were, um, complicated. Light and dark mixed together, along with a shot of bourbon. I loved them dearly, and miss them, but living with them--knowing them for years and years and years--was an exhausting experience. Now I can laugh about it, because at this point that is a rather happy way for me to think about my family experience growing up.

They both had an excellent sense of humor--my father with his dry wit, my mother with her goofy, cartoon sense of the comic--and I hope, if they still exist on some plane or other, that they are looking down at me and are greatly amused. I am. Shared laughter was an excellent family trait, one I am proud of.

It comes in handy, too, from time to time, as a good weapon against the dark.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What Are You Talking About?

I have been feeling remorseful, thinking that perhaps I was too glib about Thomas Disch's death in my last post. The whole, "Life is hard, and I sympathize," thing. There might, occasionally, be practical reasons for suicide, but despair isn't one of them. Apologies to Mr. Disch, then, from Ms. Johnson, for speaking so smoothly about something so rough.

I was thinking earlier today about denial. About how pleasant it can be. Say, for instance, that the economy is tanking. Someone really good at denial would say, "What are you talking about?" Actually, someone really, really good at denial wouldn't even say that. Someone really, really good at denial would be so entirely oblivious that they wouldn't even know there is an economy. Much satisfaction, there.

There are many other things to be in cozy denial about, of course. Large issues, like environmental collapse. Small issues (much more fun) such as my writing. I can pretend myself in and out of success or failure in a second, depending on my mood. I think this is might be an asset.

Another example. I have seen the Rug several times now, on my early morning walks, and I remain fully convinced that he can talk. Other people would probably say dogs can't talk, but, you see, denial allows me to discard that bit of nonsense.

The Rug would talk to me, I am certain. Not out loud with other people around--not even his own person. But if we were able to spend a few private moments together, for sure he'd do more than bark. He'd tell me about life lived close to the ground, about mud and grass and fur wet with rain, about the sweet, delicious scent of doggie-donuts left behind by other dogs. I would listen. I'd wrinkle my nose, perhaps, and try not to imagine things too hard, but I would listen. We'd be friends. To hell with the economy.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

There and Back Again

It's been so long since I posted it took me three times to remember my sign-in and get it right. I didn't realize I'd been gone that long.

Drifting. Disbelief in myself as a writer. Exhaustion. Depression. The usual culprits. But hello, Kathleen, you've got an audience here! Well, maybe. It's a nice fantasy.

I have taken heart, though, from Thomas Disch. I knew his name but not his work (have not yet read his children's book, The Brave Little Toaster, though his adult SF titles sound good, too.) I checked out his blog, once I learned of his death by suicide a week ago. I found a writer even older than myself, also engaged, among other things, with a gruff effort to both understand and participate in the world. I am sorry he lost his fight, but I sympathize. Life is hard and gets harder.

It made me think though that maybe it is okay to be an old(ish) writer, gruff and full of barnacles and wood rot and embarrassing, unexplainable fears of travel, with a terrible croaky voice and way less hair than I used to have. Age happens. But the heart of a writer happens, too, and does not seem to stop with the disintegration of flesh (disintegration of the mind is possibly another matter. I saw my mother's attempts at painting as her Alzheimer's moved in, and it quickly deteriorated. But what was in her heart? Sadly, I lost that, too.)

I still want to be a writer, though, so I guess I will just have to be an old writer. Not much choice, is there?

RIP, Thomas Disch. And to me, you go, girl!