Writing As A Way Of Healing by Louise DeSalvo

I just finished this book, which I started on April 22 of this year. That’s a long time to spend reading a 216 page book, isn’t it? I thought I would review it, but in the moment, I have decided not to. I’m going to write something else instead, and what I am about to write is a direct effect of reading this book. In fact, I could hardly make myself finish it, because this idea gripped me with such compelling force that I had to keep drawing myself back to the page. And now I struggle to begin.

I have, several times over the past few years, struggled to write about my father. Part of the Mary Monologues was about him, and I have written a couple of poems about him, but I have never truly come to grips with him, his life, his death. I’ve felt the emotions and the turmoil, but I have not tried to organize that mishmash of confusion into a narrative that I could integrate into something useful, something I could process. Today, as I was finishing DeSalvo’s book, my mind continued to wander to the trunk in my room. Inside that trunk are photo albums. Several, I don’t remember how many. There are albums in there that hold pictures of my father, albums that my step-mother gave me not long after he died. I haven’t ever really studied them, and have looked at them only briefly since they came into my possession.

I think it may be because by not looking, I could choose to continue to not remember. We have discussed before, you and I, my faulty memory. But I know that my memory can be triggered by pictures. That in fact, if I want to remember something now, I stop and take a mental image of what is happening at this moment. It has, I think, been easier until now to think of him as someone who was never truly part of my life than to admit that I might have had, and then lost, something very precious. The truth is, I don’t know what I will find in those albums. I do know there are at least two images there that I can talk about, because I can see them just as clearly as if I had them in front of me.

Anyway, I had planned to write this summer, but I had no idea what about until today. I have a couple of collaborative projects going, but I’m also pretty sure that this will be the summer I pull all the writing I have already done about him together into one piece. And it will be the summer I pull those photographs from their acidic PVC albums and mount them on proper paper. It will be the summer I let myself tell me the story of My Daddy. There are parts that will be very ugly. Such is life. There is anger as well. But I hope I also find beauty and laughter. Mostly, I want something whole and something true. A piece that says: this is what happened when I was six, when I was seven, when I was 12, and when I was 43, 44, and 45.

I knew it would happen eventually, and I bought the scrapbook supplies last fall. I guess it’s time.