My grandfather is a published writer of mystery novels, and he once gave me a bit of advice that is something special to me: when a story has a twist ending, the twist has to make everything make more sense, rather than less. We call him Bampa in our family because of a mispronunciation of his name by my oldest sibling. Bampa taught me something else, for better or worse. He taught me that the life of a writer is best lived so as to make the best possible story. I’m not sure he even realizes that I feel this but I do. Unfortunately, I have taken it to the wrong extremes. Where Bampa set out to explore strange countries and fly all over America in his airplane, I have sought interest not in my location so much as by testing relationships of those around me. To this end my father probably suffered the worst. I put on all kinds of scenes with him while he barely knew what was happening: threats in cafes, malice in hospitals, ultimatums in living rooms – he suffered a great deal by my doing. I didn’t always consciously set out to make life dramatic. But when backed into a corner on any issue, that was where I went, pulling off rants that I thought were soliloquies, writhing under the control of forces, and all other kinds of strangeness he has known and tolerated. When I consider what I’ve done in front of and to him, a sense of shame comes over me, for more often than not he met my cruel histrionics with gentle compassion, sometimes to the end that I acted even more extreme. I do not know when the thought that all my bullshit would make life more interesting to write about but I do remember that it at first consoled me. Finally I had a reason to go on with all my bizarre suffering over the years, or even further, to go on because of all my bizarre suffering. Unfortunately I pushed this too far until it hurt me and others even more. I have wrecked relationships with friends, family and lovers all to this self-serving end. It has gotten so bad that I have vowed never to write about meaningful people again, only to find that they always come out in my writing. So the drama goes on, just as it has with Bampa, who is now eighty. At his fiftieth wedding anniversary, Bampa said that he and his wife Bama had a secret to their marriage: they always had fun together no matter what that meant for everyone else. It sounds sweet, but there is a dark undercurrent to the statement. It is like the plot to a mystery – darkness under what is seemingly amusing. Unfortunately, life rarely offers twist endings that work the way they are supposed to. Often such twists as there really are make no sense and explain nothing. If there is a twist to Bampa’s life, and perhaps to mine as well, it has yet to be revealed. I will say this for the man – anyone who can keep writing until their seventies before they publish, as Bampa did, is worthy of some emulation. I hope it doesn’t take so long for me, but now know that even if it does, or even if I never do, I write my story with every step and there will always be others to hear my echoes, however ugly, however beautiful.
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