Sunday, February 11, 2018

A taste of memoir.

I've been slaving away over a hot keyboard all day, finishing the cut-and-paste job on the memoir. It's going to be called Mom's House and it covers the period from January 1998, when my mother was hospitalized with colon cancer, until a couple of weeks ago, when the hassle over her estate and her house was finally resolved.

I mentioned last week that I've been writing this thing in bits and pieces as events unfolded. That's been very useful; as the details were fresh in my mind when I wrote everything down, I'm reasonably sure that my recollection of events is accurate. But I'd also included some stuff that, in retrospect, won't push the narrative along. So it hasn't been a straight cut-and-paste job -- I've had to edit as I go.

And then there were the little stories that I'd forgotten about until I ran across them in the journal entries. Here's one tidbit. It takes place during the summer of 1998, after my mother's second cancer surgery. I'd taken the summer off (thank you, Family and Medical Leave Act) to help her with her recovery and to drive her to radiation appointments. My daughters had spent the first month of the summer with their father, who was living with his new wife in Buffalo, NY.

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Aquilitan | CC0 | Pixabay

In the midst of the radiation treatments, I had to pick up the kids.  I drove from Michigan City to Buffalo in a single day, stopping in Cleveland for a couple of hours to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I stayed overnight in Buffalo and planned to pick up the kids the next morning and drive back to Mom’s.  Somewhere along the way, I concocted a plan to make the trip fun for the girls: I decided we could go wading in each of the Great Lakes.

Bruce and his wife were civil to me; they were giving up on Bruce finding a job in Buffalo and were moving back to the D.C. area as soon as his previous employer hired him back. The girls said goodbye and piled in the car, and we were off.

We drove all over downtown Buffalo, looking for a spot to put our feet in Lake Erie (something I wouldn’t have tried a decade or so before, for fear that pollution would have left me with no feet). Finally, we found one. We got our feet wet and I took a picture. Then we drove to Niagara Falls and stopped for a look. The girls had visited the Canadian side earlier in the summer with their dad, his wife, and her kids; they described going up to the top of the CN Tower to see the view.

We crossed into Canada and headed for our next target, Lake Ontario. This one was easy – we drove right past a little neighborhood beach and parked long enough to stick our feet in and get a picture.

Driving across Ontario, the girls fell asleep. I hit a blinding rainstorm and a road construction detour at almost exactly the same time; I spent a nerve-wracking hour or so following the tail lights of an eighteen-wheeler and hoping he wasn’t leading me off the road.

Eventually, the sky cleared and I could relax. We made it to Sarnia and Lake Huron at dinnertime. The beach was closed because the storm had created an undertow, but the lifeguards let us put our feet in and get our picture. We stopped for dinner at McDonald’s, marveling at the Happy Meal bags in two languages. Then we got back in the car and kept driving, getting back to Mom’s safely, if late.

Nailing Lake Michigan was no problem. We walked down to the beach and got that picture sometime before the end of the summer.

Unfortunately, I had never put film in the camera. So the pictures of our wet feet live only in our memories.

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It's going to be a while before the book comes out. It's still in pretty rough shape, and I'm not talking just about story continuity. I didn't know as much about formatting then as I do now. The early entries have a ton of tab stops and extra spaces after periods, and they are all going to have to come out. But at least the heavy lifting is done. Now, maybe, I can relax.

Relax? Oh haha. I kill myself sometimes.


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