The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

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!


Blogger Chumplet said...

I understand your feelings about the status of 'DAD' even though we're adults.

In the last few years, I think my dad and I have shifted our status in the world. He is seventy-one, I am soon to be forty-nine, and we are finally friends.

He has six sisters and one brother, and often feels the stress of being the referee during sibling battles, even now.

Thu May 15, 11:14:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I had EXACTLY the same feelings as you when my kids were growing up. I wondered when I would grow into my parents who seemed to never have a moment of doubt. I like this new project of yours, Andrew.

Thu May 22, 02:43:00 am GMT-4  

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