Friday, September 20, 2013

Another adult memoir:

I've started a diet.

We had to go to a service last night for Allen Dickey, who was Anh's very first friend. She named her bike 'Thunder' and Allen got playing cards and clothespinned them to her Thunder's wheels. He was friends with her the whole first summer she was here from Vietnam and desperate for someone she could play with without words--Marco Polo in the silo, kittens in the haymow, bringing in the cows--

Dead at 42 of a heart attack--leaving a wife and three teenaged sons. The minister said today that we should be glad, positively grateful and happy, that Allen has passed over because now he is in heaven and in heaven he gets whatever he wants from the loving hands of Jesus. Then he read some hip modern version of Psalm 23. "The lord is a shepherd, watching out for me and making sure that I have everything I need; If I need to lie down, wherever I lie is smooth green grass and he and I walk together near a very quiet lake..."

But putting on a dress shirt, pants, a necktie--an exercise in
self-humiliation. It was only a few years ago I bought the black
trousers for a second cousin's wedding. Now, no hope. My sexy navy-blue
shirt with the French cuffs I've worn for thirty years...I had to leave
a button unbuttoned over my belly and hide that under a sweater. Not so
sexy. I felt tight, pinched, rubbed, gappy, gutty, as far from naked as
it is possible to feel.

The tie was tight because the collar was tight--and, apart from the
funeral director, I was the only man there wearing a tie anyway. I could
see that Allen's sister, a sophisticated lady from the real world, had
told her husband and two little boys to remove their ties so they would
not embarrass all the men in jeans, sweats, tees, hoodies, flannels, etc.

His sister spoke about Allen. "It's been a long time since anyone thought of my brother as little,"--the audience rustled and smiled--"but to Jan and me he will always be our little brother...."

I sat in a pew and laid out my strategy: keep walking. Go on that
six-mile snowshoe with Jean Saturday, even if it means talking to people
or, as bad, avoiding talking to them. No change in breakfast (toast,
coffee.) Skip lunch completely. Eat what I want for supper. No more
whoopie pies or wagon wheel size co-op cookies.

Allen is dead. I plan to lose some weight.

So, here's the problem. Is this a memoir? Allen actually died Feb 7, 2011. I wrote this Feb. 11. It's no distant memory, recalled from a shadowy past. It's more current events. Does it qualify?

To be honest, I didn't think about my audience at all in the first draft. Later I added a few explanations ('Vietnam', for example, as unobtrusively as possible) and I bracketed my diet thoughts with the minister's and sister's remarks, more interesting to an audience, I thought, than my morbid and self-involved concerns. I also worked and worked to make the last two sentences sit side by side but unconnected in any logical or grammatical way, trying for a disconcerting and chilling effect. I'm always willing to make myself look bad and even toss myself to the wolves....if it helps the writing.

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