Monday, December 10, 2007

WRITTEN WORD 40 - While I Was Away

I was like someone who has sojourned far from a familiar place, and when that person returns he finds there have been earthquakes and forest fires and hurricanes, and although the place has been quickly and carefully rebuilt to cover up the damage, nothing remains the same.

My subject matter, what I had to write about when I returned to writing, bore little resemblance to what my subject matter had been back when I thought I could write an amusing book about the family. Back when I was most interested in my stories that entailed exotic and erotic adventures in foreign lands far from any home or childhood.

While I was off on this sojourn, there had been a great deal of death, some of it metaphorical and some of it literal, as in the suicide of my Cousin Elka, who hung herself in San Diego where her absent husband had been teaching anthropology. I got the news while spending a few duty days in my mother’s brand-new West Coast Florida condominium, which looked like a prison from the outside, the building was so barren, and on the inside if you turned a door knob there was a good chance it would come off in your hand. My mother came into the tiny guest room – where three years back I had left my father dying in a rented hospital bed beside a rented steel contraption called a Hoyer Lift.

My mother had been speaking on the phone with Elka’s mother, my very correct Aunt Peggy, who had called from Scarsdale with the news. I called Elka’s husband, my obese, pedigreed cousin Fitz John Porter Poole. He spoke as if from a hollow place. He seemed to me more resigned than disturbed, and it sounded like it was due less to shock than that the event for him had a matter-of-fact quality to it.

A few hours later my mother came looking for me. She was drinking and beaming. It’s all right, she said. Peggy called me again. My Aunt Peggy had just spoken to Elka’s mother, who had decided everything was for the best. Elka had been such a trial to her family. And now, Aunt Peggy said, she and Elka’s mother were happy that the way was clear for Fitz John to get on with his life.

It was another twenty years before Fitz John shot himself, but I had plenty of new material to work with long before that when I went back to writing.

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