The Progress of a Story: Dad
Excerpt from a work in progress:
Christopher Hebblethwaite’s eight sisters turned to him, eight teacups suspended somewhere between eight saucers and sixteen lips, aiming their various serious looks in his direction. He had no idea what they were all doing in his living room talking with his wife but he felt instantly guilty. He reminded himself he was a full grown adult now by running his hand across his after work stubble.
I wanted to write a story about my dad. I think like a fiction writer so when I say ‘about my dad’ I mean that I’m going to explore certain qualities of his personality or of the situation of his life or of our relationship. The character, I’m going to make up. All the plot stuff, too. So if it’s not a documentary of my own father, what it is? Let me tease it out.
It shocks me when I think back to memories of my father and to realize that he is younger in that scene than I am now as I recall it. For example, I was five when we immigrated to Canada. I have a few vivid memories of that experience. The entire time I am being led from one country to another by an all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful father. To me, he was wise, ancient, a perfect force of nature. To think that in his reality he was just some schmo in his thirties who was probably full of worries and doubts? This freaks me out. I remember myself in my thirties. I knew nothing. I was the farthest from wise. Of course, now, in my forties, I’m wise. Of course. Of course of course. But not in my thirties. No.
I tried to re-imagine the whole experience from his point of view. It was eye-opening. It actually put me in touch with experiences of my own adulthood. Did I ever make a decision and have to stand firm with the consequences for the sake of others' need to have faith in me? Lord, I think I have. And do my kids think of me as some kind of archetypal Father. Lord, it’s scaring me.
I’ve never felt like a man. I’ve always been a boy, who has lately found himself stuck inside this (aging) man’s body. I wonder if my father felt like a boy the entire time he was embodying, for me, the archetypal man.
So, I begin this short story with the idea of trying to get that feeling. Of being a boy in a man’s body, having to make a man’s decision. It won’t be about my father. Even though it will be about my father.
HEY! Check out my blog over at Descant for the scoop on Tricia Dower's reading!
Photo from Boot Camp for New Dads- a great idea!