Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bringing the dead to life.

November 12 is a death/birth anniversary. Five years ago my dad died. Four years ago my little boy was born on the very same day.

He doesn't know, of course. I don't think I'll tell him the story until he's much older. I say that like there's all these other stories I tell him about his grandad instead. I don't. I don't tell him much about my mom either, even though she died only two months later.

Kenny does. My little guy can pick my parents out of pictures. He knows they live in Heaven. He knows their ears were broken so they used sign language. And that might be it.

It's pretty sad. He's nearly four. He should probably know a lot more than that. But I don't know what to say. Somewhere in the back of my mind is this idea that I'll write it all down for him. And for my daughter. So they'll know that my mom was an incredibly talented artist and that my dad defied more odds than most people ever face in a lifetime. I tell myself I'll write down how my mom used to Indian leg wrestle us to see who had to take out the garbage or how my dad had an insanely green thumb and grew vegetables none of us would eat.

I tell myself that. I should be able to, right? I'm an author, for the love of Pete. This is my thang, isn't it?

But  . . . I can't. 

I don't know how. How do you take something as huge as the sixty years each of them lived and distill it into a story that your children can hold and read and somehow know them? I can't. 

I'm pretty good at knowing my limits. When I know that something is beyond me, I drop it in favor of doing something I can rock. I like to be productive. But this need to tell their stories . . . it doesn't go away. I'm the only way my kids will ever know my mom and dad. I truly don't believe my husband would fully understand me if he hadn't met my parents before they died. And my kids will be missing a key to understand a part of themselves, the part that they get from me, and that I got from my parents.

When the Casual Blogger Conference rolled around last time, I passed. I know my voice, I'm not trying to make money, and I don't care about growing my audience. But I kicked myself later. I missed out on meeting and hugging a lot of cool people I would never otherwise see. I swore to myself that the next time it rolled around, I'd be all over it.

Enter the Story at Home conference in SLC and its blogging track. I thought, "Ah! NOW I can meet and hang out with my blogging friends." But then stuff started coming up, logistical stuff, and I was like, "Not this time either."

But I changed my mind again. Because I'm not doing the blogging track. I'm going to learn about how to write a family history. Specifically, my dad's history, to start. I'm going to learn how to make him come alive again for my two littlest ones in a way that they can maybe feel like they know him, so that they can see him in themselves, and love him even in his absence.

You should come. Whether it's a family story or your own personal one you need to figure out how to tell, whether it's just so you and I can finally meet and hug, or whatever your reason, you should come. It's the cheapest conference I've heard of: $79. Seriously . . . come.

(Here's the info: This super cool conference for blogging / storytelling / personal and family history /writing is happening March 8-10, 2012 in Salt Lake City.  It's called The Power of Story @ Home, and it's sponsored by Cherish Bound, Family Search, and the Casual Bloggers Community.  This is a link to their website.)


DeNae said...

You have so much 'story' to tell when it comes to your own family. I hope you'll get to a place in your life where doing so isn't hard, or painful, or whatever it is for you. You're right: This conference is a great place to learn how to do this very important work. I really, really want to know your parents better. And you're the only one who can tell me about them.

Susan said...

Oh, I wish I had a lot more money. I really want to go to that conference but there's just no way.

I'm glad you're writing about your parents. You definitely need to. Your kids need to know and they will treasure what you've written. And they will treasure your parents.

Susan said...

Am I still a no-reply?

Kasey @ The Beautiful Thrifty Life said...

I think the best way for you to write your family history (well, the stuff that's just your own memories) is to keep a journal. Those times during the day when you're passing by someone's garden and you think of your dad's green thumb, just go home and write, "Saw a garden today and thought of Dad..." then go from there.

I think it's when we worry so much about doing something "perfectly" for our kids, or about doing our family members "justice" that we let our perfectionism get in the way and the stories get lost. It's better to do it imperfectly then not at all. :-)

Good luck!!

TheOneTrueSue said...

What Kasey said.

I think the biggest things in our lives are the hardest to right about, because it is so hard to get started.

The last couple of years for me, personally, have been full of major, major, major stuff, and when I try to write about it (personally, not on the blog), I struggle.

It is so hard to distill all of the dimensions and all of the emotions into words on paper, especially at first, because everything you write seems to inadequately capture the people/places/things. We want to tell the whole story, and capture the people perfectly in the first couple of paragraphs, when that isn't possible. We have to remind ourselves that the portrait we're drawing of the people/moments can evolve over several chapters/pages/pieces.

I probably won't attend that conference but we should get together when you are here. :>

Becca said...

My kids know so little about my mom, and it's just exactly that thing - how do I even start? Lately I've been better at it - telling the teenagers how we weren't allowed to laugh out loud at the SNL skit until we heard Mom laugh first, because if she thought it was funny (appropriate or not) it WAS, and if she didn't, well, then, Mister, it WASN'T.

Also, my mom made epic spagetti sauce. Neighbor kids would come over for some in a cup with a spoon. No kidding.

Kristina P. said...

I'm not going this year, but I would love to see you at some point. I've missed you! You are the type of person who it sounds perfect for.

Abby Fowers said...

That is wonderful. I think it would be great to learn to write their stories and share the amazing things about them. They sound like such wonderful people, but I can see how writing their stories could be hard. I think they will end up being a treasure for many people down the road though, including you kids.

Rebecca H. Jamison said...

Good for you for setting a goal even though it's hard. I got a lot of my family history written when people started asking me to teach classes about how to do it. Old letters, eulogies, Christmas letters, yearbooks--all that stuff was very helpful.

Karen Peterson said...

I want to go to that conference so much. I hope there are still tickets when I can spare the cash.

I think it's really great that you want to learn to tell this story. I'm sorry that it's been so difficult for you and I hope you find what you're looking for.

LisAway said...

I am delighted that you found something to get your lazy rear (what? it wasn't laziness? I thought in the post that you said it was laziness. Must reread.) to write down probably the most important story your kids have never really heard.

It will be awesome.

wendy said...

It will be a cool conference indeed. Wish I didn't live so far away and could attend these things
Hug people I blog with

I THINK you KNOW how to write your parents story, but because it is so personal to you, and important, and are perhaps (what do I know, I am not a writer)
but perhaps, are wanting the most out of what you write. You want to TOUCH on those 2 people who made YOU, and helped Raise you, and Love you.
That would not be an easy task.
You want it to be perfect, to not leave out any minute detail
Your children will know them
they are still young, and you have Time to get it right, the way YOU want it to read.
And your children will be stronger because of it, rooted.

It is good that your husband was able to meet them before they died.
My husband never got to meet Matt (my son who died 11-11-10)
I feel "empty" being away from my children and all those who KNEW him.
You can feel sorry for someone,
but it is harder to know that grief,
when you NEVER knew them.
(does that make any sense at all)

Enjoy Birth said...

I love that you are going to do that! His story needs to be told, not only for your kids, but for you.

I want to go, I will check with DH and if he is cool I will go with you. :) Talk to Brittany, maybe she will go too.

Jenny P. said...

That week in March I will be 8 months pregnant. I'm pretty sure I could travel then, but I'm not sure I could justify the expense that it would be to get me there. $79? Not bad at all. The plane ticket to get there? Not so sure I can make it happen. I've had terrible luck when it comes to conferences... I was absolutely, most definitely going to do storymakers this year, but I'm really thinking a three week old baby is gonna be a little too young to make the trip.

As for the thoughts in this post... I just took a class through BYU's Independent Study called Composing Personal History. It was an incredible exercise in writing down things that I didn't really realize were significant until I'd written them. I finished the class with close to thirty pages all about the first twenty years of my life. I want to add to it, not just for my kids, but also for me, because I don't ever want to forget.

Brittany said...

Oh I'm in. Just have to tell Shawn. lovely post btw.