Saturday, August 13, 2016

Stopping to be Still

Heartbreakingly, it was almost a year before I understood Percy. He is a quiet boy. Very. In writing, he seldom managed more than a sentence, neatly printed, most often trite, but every once in a while, so poetic and rich that it rocked me back on my heels. Those few sentences should have been an obvious clue for me, but I continued blithely to give him strategies for generating ideas in answer to his terse – “I can’t think of anything.” One day his mother said to me, Percy wants you to know he has too many ideas. That’s what makes writing hard for him.

I don’t think I did anything very much to help him with this difficulty that all writers face. I simply saw him differently – as a writer, rather than a non-writer – and then he saw himself differently. Suddenly, he was writing.

I’m thinking of Percy now, as I stare blankly at the blinking cursor. I have promised myself to pause each year and write about my brother on the anniversary of his death. It’s been twelve years. My mind is a jumble of too much, of all the changes this year, the death of our step-sister, the birth of the babies, his youngest son’s travels around the world, his oldest son’s new girlfriend, the Syrian refugee crisis, Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump, Pokemon Go. Life has relentlessly gone on. And yet a part of me stands still always, locked into a time when the tragedies and joys, the silliness and seriousness of life were shared with Marc.

I wonder, often, if we need more stillness, more pauses. I wonder if, as a wife, mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, teacher, I would be better for stopping more often, for listening, not so much to what is said, but for the silences, for the story behind the blank page, for the avalanche of words waiting beyond the brief phrase. I wonder if it’s always what we can’t find words for that’s most important, and if what matters most is stopping long enough to feel our way forward with our heart to hear what can’t be said.

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