Monday, March 24, 2008

Life as a series of short stories

Robert's stomach is acting up again, and I'm not sure what to make of it. We're traveling in Vermont, and I have to get him back to Bethesda by car on Wednesday. His stomach is a puzzle. If he has this biotin-responsive basal ganglia disease, then the stomach issues will make sense: his body has trouble digesting fats and some carbohydrates--so that will be the narrative we can build something around.

This whole illness is like characters looking for a plot. Wasn't that part of the exegesis of Waiting for Godot? I read that once, as a senior in high school--I can't remember if I liked it, but told my friends that I didn't, or whether I really didn't like it, but it clearly made an impact on me as I think of it often, even as a 44 year old.

Yes, I guess all of life could be just sitting around waiting for a plot to happen by. Or you script your life yourself. My grandmother who just passed away was a person of the latter sort. I admire that. The more I know about her, the more I understand that she went out and kind of grabbed life and molded it to herself. She didn't invent anything or hold any particularly interesting jobs, or really have a career, or anything of that sort. She led a very traditional life, but she really led it with gusto. She went after the man she loved, captured his heart, elevated her socioeconomic status by becoming the wife of a doctor, had five children, traveled the world with my grandfather, and became the strong center of a very, very large family.

She wasn't close to her own siblings at all--and my grandfather wasn't especially close to his, either. But the two of them created this incredibly strong and connected family of their own, encouraged connections, and the five daughter had among them 19 grandchildren for them. And there are over 15 great-grandchildren. And we're all close or reasonably so.

I ran away from much of this for most of my life--there was some sexism in my family--my grandmother did favor boys, and being a woman in the family was about having children and learning domestic skills. But I do see what she built now as an accomplishment. And it was as carefully put together as a novel. She built relationships with each and every one of us, as individuals.

As for me, though, I think I still am looking for a plot. For my life. There are plenty of narrative threads, but I've never felt that tug as she did to form a coherent narrative. Maybe my life is a series of short stories. I still don't know if this method of living my life is a strength or a weakness.

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