Unearthing Old Words

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Digging up my journals for ’92 through ‘94 I look for my trips with Dad to the Bay area for The Big Games. I want to find the detail of his flight, the supper and the night at the hotel, and the early morning discovery that his suitcase is full of Saris and a program for a medical anesthesiology meeting. I need those buried words for an essay. But I cut my self on some sharp shards:

At July 6 1992 is a note from A for father’s day:

‘This will entitle the bearer to one all expenses paid weekend scuba trip in Monterey Bay… including lodging, meals, and equipment rental. Should you feel that you are too out of practice for Scuba, a replacement gift will be arranged, you wimp!! Love, XXOO, A.’

I didn’t ever go.

At October 18th 1992 I find a letter from L, age 12…

‘Dear Mommy and Daddy,

I can’t face you or tell you all this person to person, so I will have to write. I was bitterly disappointed today with my performance, but what really makes me feel terrible is that I disappointed you, my wonderful parents. You worked so hard today to make the rep class a success and it seems inconceivable to me that I could have let you down so utterly. I will try harder, because I want to return the love you give me in every way I can. I’m so sorry, mommy and daddy; please forgive me for failing you. I’m sorry. Goodnight.

Love, signed(sic) L, your daughter who will try her best.’

I had read the letter, and saved it. But there is no evidence of my hearing that child voice.

At 23 Marzo 1993 in a journal I bought in Chile, is this:


Yo le digo tío-pero no es tío mío,

I call him uncle

Lo digo pa’ joder.

But i say it to piss him off.

Yo era forastero, solitario,

I was a stranger, alone,

Un poco amargado, resentido-

Quite bitter, resentful.

Pero me trató con sencillez,

But he treated me with openness,

Con cariño como si fuera digno de respeto,

And affection as if I merited respect.

Como si no hubiera cagado muchas veces la vida mía.

As if I hadn’t fucked up my life.

Cuando no soñaba, él me alimentó con sueños suyos.

When I couldn’t dream he fed me his own,

Sueños Gonzalez, raros, bellos,

Gonzalez dreams, strange, and beautiful,

Con vitaminas de locura.

With vitamins of insanity.

Todavía  sueño con la vida más que la muerte,

I still dream of life more than death.

Puedo dar y recibir, soy sano, fuerte.

Can give, receive, am whole, strong.

Y todavía le digo tío,

And still I call him Uncle,

Porque no tengo nombre suficientemente grande,

For there’s no word great enough,

Ni profundo, ni ancho

Or deep enough or wide,

Para este hombre que le digo tío,

For this man I call Uncle,

Pero no es tío mío.

Who is no uncle of mine.

A few years later my Tío got prostate cancer and I advised no aggressive treatment; it’s still there watching quietly. Last time we spoke, eight years after a dense stroke, he was confused, but alert, diapered, and bedridden. He usually feigned good cheer, but often professed an overwhelming sadness; yet he did not recall my assurance, after the cancer diagnosis, that I would interfere personally if he ever requested it.

Disturbed diaries can speak, accuse, or shame. Mine say I have too often ignored what was significant, focusing only on what was important. They ask aloud if a child can overcome an ambitious father’s love, suggesting the grown woman might be handicapped by 12 year old child-eyes, which may see only vanity in vulgarly powerful men.

They accuse me of overlooking the innocent love of a child while focusing on self love.  They say I made promises I cannot keep. I try to defend myself, claiming each day in life is at once smaller, less significant as a part of the whole, yet greater because we learn to know ourselves, and each other.

But I doubt. Abruptly, unwilling  to risk further injury, I close ’92 and ’94, and re-inter them with their kin, at least for now; later, perhaps when I’m prepared. Digging about among old personal words should be done only with an empty stomach, a quiet mind, and a full heart.

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