Random musings on a writer's life & times, with occasional input from acquaintances


Saturday, May 17, 2003

Hey, I’m a finalist for a Diarist Award again!

This time, the nomination from Diarist.Net is for best comedic entry. My Writeright screed of Jan. 11, 2003, “The Underpants War,” is one of three finalists for the January-March award.

Cruise to http://www.diarist.net/awards/ and vote for me! (After you reach the site, click on Entry Award Finalists.) You have to operate a weblog of your own to be eligible to vote. The balloting ends May 31.

Incidentally, I didn’t win the Diarist.Net dramatic entry award for the last quarter of 2002. I was a finalist, but a fellow who wrote about becoming a single dad to his young son after the boy’s mother went seriously ‘round-the-bend aced me out. So it goes.

Friday, May 16, 2003

My niece Francie is getting married next fall, so my sister-in-law Peggy -- her mother -- is spending a lot of time these days at Tres Fabu.

Tres Fabu! Can you believe it? There is actually a store that calls itself Tres Fabu! (Which means “very fabulous,” according to Peggy.) The joint sells wedding dresses. Just the mention of it sets visions of dollar signs dancing in my head, not to mention visions of bored salesgirls in slinky Parisian dresses and stiletto heels.

Peggy says this wedding is going to cost her family quintuple-digit bucks. I guess I’m lucky my extended household includes only three hairy-legged sons. Tradition dictates the brides’ parents will have to pick up the tabs for their weddings, if and when any females prove crazy enough to marry them.

I’ve been receiving major exposure to the wedding-preparation jitters, though, because Peggy stayed at our house four days this week while working on nuptial plans with her daughter. Francie and her fiancee, Bo, live here in Portland, but Peggy lives 150 miles away in Bend, so she has been sleeping in our guest room while working with her daughter on such stuff as picking the wedding dress, hiring a florist, renting a site, arranging for music and selecting a design for the cake (which will be baked by my wife, Cookie Jean, the culinary school grad and ace cook).

Trying on potential wedding dresses took up much of the time. Francie looked at scads, with Mom and Aunt Cookie Jean peering over her shoulder, and the stress level reached a confrontational peak when Peggy suggested her daughter would look better in any dress on her actual wedding day because by then she would have shaved her armpits. This provoked a heated lecture on body image, self-respect, maternal meddling and so forth. A cowed Peggy was beginning to wonder if her daughter would be married in a burlap bag by the time Francie settled on a sexy, low-cut white number. What relief! Tres fabu!

Now the main concerns seem to be site (some structure in the warehouse district of Northwest Portland sounds like the leading candidate), music (band or disk jockey?) and flowers (who knew you interview squads of florists before selecting the appropriate one?). The cake is well in hand, with Peggy’s sister, Cookie Jean, cruising local bakeries and buying every bridal magazine in site to stockpile ideas.

Cookie Jean, in fact, seems to be enjoying all of this more than anyone else. Poor Francie has the stress of getting married, poor Peggy has the stress of collaborating on decisions and pungling up bucks and lucky Cookie Jean gets to be as up close and personal with wedding plans as she ever will be, since she only has sons to marry off. She has a secret hope, though. She whispered to Peggy the other day that there is always the chance one of our boys will marry an orphan, and Cookie Jean could step in as surrogate mother-of-the-bride.

Gee, that would be tres fabu. I just hope the orphan is into clean-shaven armpits.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

If you are, or have tried to be, a regular reader of Writeright, I must offer you an apology. I haven’t posted much on the weblog in recent weeks. In case you’ve visited the site and been disappointed to find nothing new, I apologize. I have been struggling lately with an old bugaboo, depression. It saps my energy and when my energy wanes, so does my will to write.

I am a depressive of long standing, which may surprise readers who visit Writeright for its humorous takes on everything from literature to family life. It’s an old psychological saw, though, that humor is a device many people use to distance themselves from pain. If I ran distances as well as I establish them with my sense of humor, I’d be champion marathoner, I suppose. But -- whatever gets us through the night, eh?

Getting through the night, and the following day, is a challenge for me this time of year. I don’t sleep very well at night, and as a result I am sleepy in the daytime. I awaken at 3 or 4 a.m. and spend hours counting sad sheep in my mind, then find myself yearning at 9 a.m. or 2 p.m. for the dark sanctuary of our basement family room, where I can curl up on the couch with the television offering background noise and the space heater licking my face as I sleep the day away. Sleeping in the day aggravates wakefulness in the night, and the whole situation snowballs until I become something of a zombie. This does not produce jazzy wordsmithing for Writeright or much of anything else, workwise.

I am, as I admitted earlier, a depressive of long-standing. I was about ten years old when I experienced my first episode, as I recall. I lived in an Air Force base housing project in northern California. There were always scads of kids around, and I was a ringleader in organizing games and activities. One day I wanted to play cowboys. I dug out my twin mock-Colt .44s with the leather holsters and the individual cap cartridges and went looking for outlaw henchmen, but all of the neighbor kids refused to play. They were up to other things -- shooting marbles, watching cartoons on TV, whatever. I returned to my house, went to my mother and burst into tears. I felt friendless, hopeless, unable to control my surroundings or -- with stupid tears running down my face -- my own behavior. My mother was mystified. So was I, at the time, but I see it now as a harbinger of things to come.

I coped fairly well with my depressive tendencies for years. I tried to explain them away as romantic melancholy, the kind of thing that often affects us literary types. But then my oldest child and only daughter, Dawn, was killed in a car wreck by a drunk driver who ran into the car in which she was a passenger. She was 17. I sank to a new level of depression which was more intense than anything I had ever experienced before. Dawn died in 1982, so I have had time to recover, and I have, for the most part. I go months at a time with few or no problems. But spring is tough for me, because a series of annual events stirs up memories and feelings I just can’t handle cleanly.

Dawn’s birthday is May 4. Every year around that day, I fall into a depressive funk. The funk is aggravated by the fact that every spring, usually the week before the birthday, I travel to Eugene for a ceremony at which Lane County Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) presents awards to high school students who write essays and enter them in a contest named after Dawn, who died in Lane County. During that trip, I often pick up applications for a college scholarship administered in Dawn’s memory by her family to take home and review as part of the process of selecting recipients. Then comes May 18, the day the week-long manslaughter trial of the man who killed Dawn began in 1983. All of this sets the memories and emotions surrounding my daughter’s death roiling.

People offer me advice about how to cope with spring. Don’t place roses on Dawn’s grave May 4, they suggest. Skip the MADD awards ceremony. Let someone else read scholarship applications. Ignore May 18. The advice is offered with the best of intentions, but I just can’t accept it.

To do those things, it seems to me, would be tantamount to trying to forget Dawn ever existed. I can’t see her any more. I can’t touch her brown hair, or listen to the sound of her soft voice. But I can honor her memory. And I need to do that, for her sake and mine, even if it is painful.

So -- if the writing on Writeright seems skimpy this spring, please excuse it. Better work will come with the passage of time. It always does. At least until August. I hit another dry spell then. Dawn was killed on Aug. 22nd.

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