On Dogs, Dad, and Dying

I had a kind of a strange day. I sat down to write, as I’ve been trying to do every day. My powers of procrastination kick in every time, so I have to trick myself into starting .

Just sit down, I say to myself. What’s the harm in sitting down?

Just one sentence, I tell myself. Just one.

It’s like dealing with a stubborn child.

Once the first sentence is down, I’m hooked and ready to rock. Until then, I check email, Facebook, Twitter (not really. I have an account but don’t know what to do with it), play a couple of games, take out the garbage … and then I really procrastinate.

So, I was writing about my dog, Sam. I grew up on a farm, and had two older siblings whose mission in life was to torment me, so I had a lot of “me” time. My dog was more than a faithful companion; he was my friend. I could tell him stuff, and no matter how whiny, arrogant, or angry I was, he would always listen patiently. And then give me a good “licking”.

So I was enjoying my time. In the back of my mind, though, I knew I had to tackle something pretty tough. Something I didn’t know how to write.

My Dad died when I was four. I have very few memories of him, some warm, fuzzy feelings, and that’s about it. He died before I really understood what death was.

Anyway, here I was, writing thousands of words about my dog. Then it’s time for Dad, and I didn’t know what to say. Which is unusual for me, because I always have something to say.

I started by writing out my memories. Simple things that made me smile. And, suddenly, I was sobbing uncontrollably. I’m at my keyboard, trying to write, and there are so many tears rolling down my face that I was afraid my keyboard would short out.

I’m not even sure what it was about. A sense of loss? A sense of what could have been? I don’t know. I kept on writing. When I got to the end, I realized that I knew way more about my dog than my Dad.

And I think that’s OK.  Life, I’ve discovered (the hard way, mostly), is not neat and tidy. When I was younger, it was a black and white world. Now I see so many shades of grey that I could probably write a book about it.

Maybe that’s already been done.

One of the things that I’m discovering is that each episode in my life has moved me on to the next. In a perfect world, I would have been able to script out a less painful, more productive way of moving forward, but there is no perfect world. Just the life we have to live in the present one.

I tried to tell the truth about my Dad, from my four year old perspective. I’m a bit afraid to read it, because it is likely not very good. But, at the end of that writing session, I felt like I was a writer. Not some guy dabbling, but like I was doing something real and important.

I think that’s a writer’s job – to tell the truth, even if everything is made up.

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