Grateful Ned

I don’t write about my father enough.

We talk often, text daily. At 86, he’s remarkably self-sufficient, living contentedly on an island off the coast of Maine. He requires little assistance other than in financial and legal matters. He’s always on the go. He has a “team” of friends and Gilbert the cat to keep him company.

And he’s written a memoir.

Childhood memories were hazy and entire decades blurred, so I asked him to help me piece things together, to tell me his story. Dozens of legal pads later, he painstakingly transcribed his near-illegible penmanship, writing what would become his third book.

My father’s life, I’ve learned, is an endless adventure from the depths of the sea to the vast world beyond. He’s explored the nation, piloting our family across the country in a 1957 Mercedes, and he’s seen the world through the lens of a Greyhound bus windshield. He’s traveled on ships, trains and airplanes to Europe and Scotland, South Africa and South America, Mexico and most recently, on the Trans-Canadian railway through each of that country’s provinces.

Yet, as I edit “Grateful Ned,” his 700-page soul quest, I find that in his perpetual pursuit to live a unique life, we are one. Similar passions flow through our veins like the blood that links us as father and daughter. We share a desire for travel and road trips. A mutual delight in telling stories. A passion for writing. An insatiable thirst for reading. The conscious choice to take the road less traveled.

Even now, my father continues to explore. As he delves further into the past, we both enter a new level of self-discovery. Today, his business cards brand him “EXPLORER.” His sight may grow dim, and his energy level wane, but my father will never stop exploring.

And for this, I am grateful.

Excited Utterance

We’re in CVS, picking up lipstick and Fig Newtons and suddenly my mother shouts: “HOW MANY DAYS DO I HAVE LEFT?” Her voice is piercing, frightened, all caps.

It wasn’t her first startling outburst. She’s living an unfiltered life lately: half-disrobing in a parking lot; loudly commenting, mid-sermon, on how cold church is. In her pre-dementia days, she was outspoken, airing her conservative politics at the island general store where she’d shopped for decades. When Alzheimer’s took root, she withdrew from the community, aware she was—as she put it—“less than her brilliant self.”

I was alarmed at first, at this recent return to speaking her mind. Yet, last week when she shouted, “WHAT SHOULD WE DO RIGHT NOW?” the pastor never missed a beat of his sermon. I held her hand and, like everything else these days, rolled with it.

Burn After Writing?

Third in the series “A Trilogy of Morning Pages”

What do we do with our journals when words overflow and pages are full?

I am an oracle of the Morning Page. My journals expose my growth as a writer: who I once was, who I am now, and where I’ll go tomorrow.

Some Pages hold rough cuts of a story. The glimmer of a personal essay. The skeletal outline of a feature article. Some are crammed with characters, scenes and dialogue for the novel I struggle to write. Still others have potential for clever tweets or blog entries. This is what I keep, transferring the handwritten paragraphs to electronic form in languishing anticipation for the muse to strike.

I harbor no future famed illusions of an author’s “found” journals, yet I can’t throw them away. And so, the pile of frenzied words grows faster, almost, than I can write.