Hitting the Bullseye

For most of my life I’ve thought of my father as a background person in my life. He was always around, eating dinner with the family every night, taking us on picnic and camping trips, and occasionally directing my sister and me to clean up the kitchen on nights my mother may not have bothered. He was handy to have around for help on math homework in high school.

But he was not much of a conversationalist, and much of our interaction took place through the filter of my mother. For example, she would tell me, “Your father doesn’t like thus and such,” or “Your father thinks you should do this or that.”

As I wrote The Albuquerque Years, I recalled all sort of things I did with my daddy as a very young girl. I “helped” him irrigate and tend the garden. I watched as he killed chickens for Sunday dinner. I rode in the basket of his bicycle to get fruit from the stand up the road. I rode on his shoulders. I learned how to take pictures. I tricked him with a fake yoyo on April Fool’s Day. I regretted that these memories of direct involvement seemed to taper off as I grew older.

A few minutes ago I began skimming a free pdf version of Paulo Coelho’s book The Way of the Bow that I downloaded from his website. As I read the description on page nine of Tetsuya stringing his bow, I recalled the long-forgotten yellow bows and arrows my father gave my sister and me when I was nine or ten. I don’t remember the occasion, but I do remember spending hours and hours over a period of years trying to perfect my aim.

With that memory dozens more came pouring forth, and suddenly I’m suffused with the most delightful realization that although he may not have shown it openly, he always loved me more than I would have imagined. I never doubted that — I was just not fully aware of the extent of it. This memory hit a bullseye in my heart! I’m simply aglow with gratitude and joy.

I doubt I ever would have stumbled across this discovery if I hadn’t spent so much time writing and thinking deeply about various memories. Individual stories were a good way to start this process, and I’m finding that going on to the next step of integrating those vignettes into a more comprehensive overview is deepening the results and insights.

When I first began what I now recognize as the practice of life writing, I had no idea that it would be come a lifelong pursuit. I thought I could just write a few stories — maybe even one hundred
and be done with it. I can no longer count the number of stories I've written, but the last time I did, the total exceeded seven hundred, and I've just begun to write. Now I realize that the longer I stick with it, the deeper I write and see, and the happier and more peaceful I feel. The positive effects reach every corner of my life, and I can’t imagine not spending time at least several days a week on this ongoing exploration.

Write now: make a list of memories of happy times spent with a special person in your life. Use this to write a paragraph or two or longer story about each memory, or as journal prompts.


Pat's Place said...

Your dad sounds like mine. He was a traveling salesman and not home too much, but when he was, he faded into the background. Interesting to see through your writing that my dad probably loved us very much but just had a hard time conveying that to us in a tangible way.

Kim Pearson said...

Right now I'm working on a eulogy for my mother, who is dying. She asked me to write and give it, which surprised me, because my mother and I have never been close, and indeed, most of my memories of her are negative ones. They are not suitable for a eulogy, so I've been searching for good memories of her instead. "Search and you will find" is so true -- in saying goodbye to my mother I have just now said hello.

Ritergal said...

Pat, that's the neat thing about sharing our family stories. I've gotten lots of insights from reading or listening to what others have written.

Ritergal said...

Kim, I'm so sorry to hear about your mother's condition, and what an odd blessing to be given -- set to the task of writing a eulogy that may work to "restory" your relationship. Fascinating!

Herm said...

My paternal grandmother, an evangalist, was a highly respected lady. She was strict, but in no way harsh. Still, I respectfully feared her more than revered her. I was ten when she passed.

My maternal grandmother had a large nurturing place in our lives. I loved her deeply and as adults we were great friends.

One day I talked to her about my outlook on my other grandmother. She listened then told me how much she loved and respected her. She told me a story about getting counseling from her.

After sharing I had a different outlook about her. I'm named after her and have a new pride in that. I don't know any other female named "Eugene".

Ritergal said...


Not just everyone has an evangelist as a grandmother, and it's understandable that she would be a rather fearsome figure. But with the help of your other grandmother, in the words of that well-known Youtube video, "shift happened" and how great that is. Terrific story. Thanks for sharing!