Sometimes I Have to Step Away

Even five years after Rodger’s passing the need for respite arises sometimes. For seven years he and I were almost constant companions. As his need for care grew so did my commitment to him. An undying connection was formed.

I started writing our story while deep in the midst of it. That didn’t work. There was no time to write and, even if there had been, I was too spent to form the words. I stopped writing.

I tried again a few months after his passing. Too soon. Much too soon. When writing a memoir you have to have some distance from the work. I had none. I’d begin a passage and freeze, coming aware of where I was an hour or more later with not a single word being added to the scene. While the keyboard lay dormant my mind had carried me back in time. I was living it again. In one way that was good. Putting emotion on the page is something writers strive to do.

“If you don’t cry when you write it people won’t cry when they read it.”

crying baby

I cried. I cried too much and too often. I relived the feelings of guilt and frustration that sometimes threatened to overwhelm me when I tried to figure out how to care for him. I smiled through my tears when I remembered the amusing or tender moments we shared. I cried because I missed him and when I imagined I heard the telltale click, click that had always accompanied the release of the brakes on his walker. I became moody and had trouble sleeping. I started inventing reasons to avoid writing. It was easy to stay away. I had a deadline for a short story or a contest. I was too busy teaching workshops or reading stories submitted by students. I wrote a children’s book and became very busy promoting that. Every day I invented another reason to avoid our story. It hurt too much to go there again.

Just as he had been when he was alive, Rodger remained a focus in my life. His story deserved to be told. I needed to tell it. I warned my husband that I was going to be reliving it and it was going to be hard. There would certainly be days when I’d be out of sorts and emotional but I could not walk away from it this time. He braced himself for what was coming and said he understood.

I began to write gain. I still froze when crafting certain passages but only for a few moments before moving on. I cried and hope readers will shed a few tears when they read it. I cried a lot when I wrote the last line. I closed the file and walked away from it for several days. Then came the revisions and the long submission process and finally the offer to publish. After the celebration ended it was time to get work again. Rewrites and final edits had to be done. I read and reread the entire book several times. I had attained enough distance to finish this time but for weeks I was emotionally drained. And that is why this blog has been silent for a while. I needed a bit of respite.

Confessions of an Imperfect Caregiver will be released by Open Books Press on Rodger’s birthday, July 26, 2014. Details on how and where to order will be posted on this blog and on my website.

caregiver card2

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Merita Atherly Engen
    Jun 25, 2014 @ 19:59:53

    I understand totally! Glad you’re back.



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