I haven't posted much because the Big Guy seems to be taking all of my words, which is good. I'm realizing that I have no one particular process beyond riding herd on the ideas. I wrote seven pages over three days last week -- a slow week -- and then redid four of them yesterday from scratch. I had two series of background information to convey, and the resulting product resembled two encyclopedia entries rather than anything contributing to the narrative or argument. So, I had to go back and figure out exactly what argument this stuff was supposed to be making. That is, what function the information served in the story at this point. I got it closer to what it needed to be and that was far more satisfying than before.
Right now, I'm struggling to keep the balance between the woman who takes center stage in this part of the chapter and the Big Guy himself. I read the last chapter that I finished and I'm satisfied that the woman in it is the leading character and the driving force. That's what I wanted. The only problem with that chapter is that there is so much story in the story and so much extra stuff that should go in. I think the extra stuff will probably just spill into the next chapter.
In writing the two encyclopedia entry sections, I realized that there is an easy and fast way to write this book and there is the best way to write this book. I could go the easy and fast way, and it would probably read like a lot of other biographies out there, but I wouldn't be so proud of the final product. In fact, while I doubt my ability to write this book the best way, I still try, and I am realizing that writing the book is just as much part of the process of mastering the material as the research is.
That is, I used to think that you had to master the material and then write the book, and felt ashamed when I couldn't adequately answer questions about parts that I hadn't yet started writing about, as if I were a fraud who didn't know the subject well and therefore had no right to write this book. Well, that's just bullshit. The writing is just as much part of the quest for understanding the question or exploring the idea as the reading and researching. When I thought of writing as the report of the research only, I became too paralyzed to write because I couldn't put down a word until I had the whole thought formed and knew everything about everything. Then, when I did begin to write, I felt so frustrated by my inability to speed ahead and crank out the chapter. While a degree of that helps and is good -- and I'm not sure that I have done enough of knowing everything about everything in regard to this chapter -- sometimes I just have to write with the handicap of not knowing everything about everything. The writing goes slower, but I'm pretty sure that the result is much more complicated and better than anything that I've written before.
Alas, that was not what I opened blogger to write about. Either God or the Devil has finally thrown in the towel. Their epic rock-scissors-paper game should be ending shortly and the loser will finally take my grandmother. She's over in Texas, hooked up to IVs that she tears out of her arm, and on the verge of having a feeding tube installed because she refuses to eat -- the real sign that she's ready to go because she has not missed many meals in her life, all of them so terrible and in such small portions.
I'm not asking for sympathy because I really don't feel anything for which anyone should feel sympathy. I made my peace about her a long time ago, after my grandfather escaped her by dying himself, and haven't seen much of her since because she would inevitably disturb that peace. That's just how she was: Mean and narcissistic, and at the root of a good share of fuckedupness in my family growing up. She tried to crush my mother into an emotional and psychological pulp, and berated her parents, her sister, her brother and her husband into their graves. She took their illnesses and debilitation as a personal affront to her; and although she wanted to be a good person, she just had more of the characteristics of a monomaniacal autocrat than the saint that she thought she should be.
I share too many of her features, for which I was paid with a number of beatings as a child from both her and my parents.
I mostly feel bad because I don't feel bad. In fact, I feel a bit devilish. She won't hang on until we return -- for her sake, I hope she doesn't -- and the plane tickets would drain my account. I can come up with quite a number of other excuses for not going to the funeral, too. Mostly, I don't want to go because I don't want to enter into whatever hell of a performance will be expected -- or, rather, the competing performances that will be required. There will be my father (this is not his mother), who will expect the full sentimental performance, remembering only the good and pretending that the bad never happened. Pretty much everyone else will expect that performance, and I could give it except my mother would consider it a personal betrayal because she will want the performance she expects. The performance she expects involves me joining her in taking a nice, long pee then dancing a joyful jig on her mother's grave. Not that I don't have my own reasons for wanting to do this myself, and not that I can't give this performance either, but the sight of the pure hatred that my mother has for her mother is chilling. Understandable, but difficult to watch.
I have no idea how one of my brothers will react, but his would be the lead to follow since he is an asshole, but an asshole who knows how to behave in a crisis. He gets the power to pull the plug when my time comes because I know he'll do it without blinking. My other brother will probably be a mess because he was closest to my grandparents and has the most unalloyed good memories of them, but he will be a mess because he will be remembering our grandfather who was a genuinely good man and his best buddy. My sister-in-law will take care of that brother. Still, I have no idea how to interact with either of my brothers since we aren't close. We don't hate one another, we are just more like three different people who happened to share a house when we were kids. In fact, my best role would be keeping their kids occupied while they played the mourners because, like the kids, I'm seven.
So, really, when this goes down, when she dies, I don't have any need or desire to be at the funeral. I feel no loss or grief, just a sense that something has finally ended. No one else will really need me there to support them in their grief. I could handle any single performance, and with the right combination of chemistry, all of them at once. Heck, I could walk away from the funeral holding the Oscar for Best Performance of the Spectrum of Grief Cranked up to Eleven; but, like a whiny little brat, I don't want to. My own, genuine reaction would be to make inappropriate cracks, also like a brat. Like I said, I made my peace with her. Mostly, my only reasons to go are selfish: she will be buried in New Orleans, where it's Mardi Gras, and I could research at the Amistad Center. Also, I don't want to look like the dissociated asshole that I am.
She will die probably within the week. I know that I won't go to the funeral because of the price of the ticket; but if I did go, I would give that Oscar-worthy performance and I will pay my respects -- then go to a parade or two, maybe a second line, and do my research and probably see my aunt (who is my father's sister and no blood relation to this grandmother). If I don't go, I know that I will visit her grave perhaps in the summer or next Christmas.
I think, however, that I will give her memory one of the few things that would make her very happy. She was the principal of a girl's high school in the late '60s and early '70s. Her career was the thing that made her happiest and that period was the pinnacle of her life. On Facebook -- yeah, I know, and I have my reasons -- there is one of those "You know you are from X" groups for that area of the city. I took a peek and discovered that her former students remember her with admiration. She inspired a lot of them, which was a lovely thing to see and know about her. So, when she goes, I will post on that page and let them know when the funeral will be. Perhaps they might show up and she will have mourners who have uncomplicated memories of her that are good, and she will get that bit of undiluted respect. That's the best that this dissociated asshole can do.