If you could have a conversation with a loved one that has passed, what would you say? Better yet, what would they say?
I’m not certain this question is at the heart of my thesis, but I like it. It’s something, perhaps, I could ask myself about my grandmother, too. She died when I was only 10 and I have a very distinct memory of her. I can hear her voice and laugh like it was yesterday. If I could write her a letter I might say something like:
I miss you. I wish you could see my daughter, Autumn. She looks just like me and is best friends with Mom, just like I was with you. She’s the sweetest girl I’ve ever met. Mom reminds me a lot of the way you were with us kids. She’s the best grandmother to my kids. Oh, and my son Justice would just get the biggest kick out of you. You’d get a kick out of him, too…he’s super smart! I miss that little apartment of yours and watching The Smurfs and Muppet Babies on Saturday morning cartoons. I don’t even know if they have cartoons on Saturday mornings anymore. I know, can you believe it?! They have entire channels dedicated to cartoons all day long. Crazy! And phones you can take with you anywhere. True story. And everyone has their own computers. We have 3 (plus the phones are computers now too so…..it’s all so crazy). Anyway, it feels weird that I’m an adult now. Do you see me as a little kid? I wish I had the chance to know you as I grew up. It would have been great to have a grandparent as young adult or even a teenager. Miss and love you.
Love your granddaughter,
And she might say something like….(I can hear her voice)
My Sweet Little Laura,
I miss you sooooooo much. I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck!!!! You sound very grown up. But you were always a big girl, helping me cook and clean all the time. I am sure your children are BEAUTIFUL just like you were. And sweet like you, too. It sounds like you are doing good for yourself, but I always knew you would. You always were so smart, Laura, you know that. I hope you are doing what makes you happy in your life. You deserve it. Have fun. Don’t worry about anything too much. Life’s too short. Give those kiddies kisses and hugs from me.
That was weird. I guess a grandma is always going to be a grandma if they pass away when you’re a little kid. And so, there would be little chance of me developing my grandmother’s character. She was the sweet old woman who loved me more than anyone and in whose eyes I could do no wrong. One-dimensional. Awesome. Grandma. I guess I didn’t really know her as well as I thought I did. That’s kind of sad, but beautiful in a way too. I don’t know what my 10-year-old self would possibly sound like, either. Just some things I’ve been thinking about as I digress from my thesis for a minute.
Here’s what I’ve been thinking…..
I feel like my thesis is pulling me in two directions, but I think I know which way I need to go. When I finally felt like I had figured out the right thesis topic for me, it was not really about exploring my relationship with my father so much as it was about me getting to tell my story through a unique experimentation with mode. The truth is that if my father had not died the way that he did I would probably not be doing this thesis. That’s not to say that I don’t think this would be a great project for anyone to do regardless of how a loved one died. I think there are some really interesting concepts to grapple with regarding the development of an ongoing relationship via different modes of communication, etc. The problem I have, however, is that the portrayal of my father’s character and my relationship with him still feel secondary to this elephant in the room: September 11th (I think I’ve expressed this before in a blog post weeks ago but here it goes again…). When I attempt to compose an intro to my thesis and talk about mode and memory and meaning and truth it feels artificial. I mean, I know those things are a core component of my project, but I think it’s really more about me telling my personal experience since 9/11, but in a unique way. When this is all said and done, I want my project to share with the world what it was like to have lived through 9/11 from a family member’s perspective. That’s really why I’m doing this. I gravitate towards thinking about the historical relevance of my artifacts quite a bit. I want them to remain an integral part of my final project. It’s important to me. The lit review pieces that speak to me the most are ones regarding 9/11 fiction and memoirs (both 9/11-related memoirs and memoirs in general). The “letters” I write to my father are real in every sense. They are simply a means by which to tell my story. How I felt. What I was going through. Recalling details I may have forgotten or not thought of in a long time. A piecing together of my personal history relative to 9/11. Of course, his responses are fiction, but without them, my project is essentially a historical memoir. I think that’s why when I was messing around with placing my documents into Scalar a few weeks back I kept playing with the title “what is real.” It’s all very “real” to me. I am also thinking more and more about structuring this thing and it’s exciting and helpful to ponder the various ways it can unfold for the reader. This is in no way an abandonment of my study of the impact mode has on meaning, etc., just a reframing of sorts. A reprioritizing, perhaps. I want to make a case as to why and how my project adds to the existing post-9/11 literature space. I feel like that’s where I “belong.” All other things are important, yet secondary.
Totally separate stream of consciousness paragraph below…..
When I watched the twin towers collapse before my eyes I was only thinking one thing: Is my father still alive? In that moment, I told myself “yes.” At the time, there was no concrete evidence to prove otherwise. That would not come until many months later. While thousands of people in lower Manhattan were running away, I was running towards the site of impact. In a way, I feel like I’ve been running ever since, trying to find my father. While the world struggled to make sense of the events that were unfolding, I was struggling to come to terms with the possibility that he did not survive. I clung to the hope that he had somehow managed to escape for as long as I could. Then one day, I allowed myself to let go. I allowed myself to accept the reality of the situation. He died in those towers. I would never know how or when, but I finally acknowledged that my father had died on September 11, 2001. I had a dream or a dream-like conversation with him the night my mind allowed me to say goodbye. In that conversation, he told me about how wonderful heaven was and how much he missed my mom and that he wouldn’t be “coming back to visit me” anytime soon. It was very real for me. I could see his face and hear his voice perfectly clear. I’m not a big believer in the supernatural. I don’t look back on this experience as an encounter with my father’s spirit but, rather, I see it as a genuine representation of my mind’s image of my father. These fictitious “conversations with my father” are an extension of that experience. A continuation of the relationship that was cut short.
Into draft one to come soon….