Who will there be to talk to?


Doug Bruns reflects on writing and his father's efforts with memoir @ The Millions
My father is a quiet man. He is eighty-eight and, characteristic of his generation, stoic. He comes from German stock and I think he was indoctrinated with the nineteenth-century Teutonic notion that discourse upsets the digestive system. He has never had, to my knowledge, a digestive problem, so presumably the practice has served him well. It came as a great surprise, consequently, to learn that he was writing his memoirs.

I was returning home to Maine and called my father during a layover at the Detroit airport. I’d been away a week. My father lives alone, only a few steps from my door. He gets lonely when I am out of town. I was expecting his lonely or his bored voice to answer the phone. He picked up. “I’ve got a little project going on,” he said, sounding full of joy, and perhaps even excitement. “I’ve got a manuscript I’m working on.” My father finished high school–barely–went to war, returned from war, went to work at International Harvester in Indiana, retired, and eventually moved close to me after my mother, his wife of fifty-three years, died suddenly three years ago. He is not a writer, though his camp letters to me many years ago betrayed an ability to fashion the written word in a surprisingly vigorous manner, particularly when stacked up against the troubled verb conjugations of his spoken words. “What do you mean, Dad, a manuscript?” I asked.

“I’m writing the story of my childhood, of three brothers growing up in Ft. Wayne during the depression.”
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