Walk With Me

Tom and me a long time ago.

Tom and me a long time ago.

Sometimes it is the smallest thing that smacks you.

Recently I reread one of my favorite books, A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving. In the book, the narrator of the story suffers a loss. He tells us that we lose people in pieces, not all at once. During holidays, birth dates, passing a favorite place, and the loss happens all over again, again and again.

Today I was editing The Lost Boy script. Originally, the script was a transcript from interviews with Tom intended for Tom to perform. It was filled with quotation marks – he quoted lots of people. His story is populated with some fantastic characters. After his death I rewrote the play for two actors so that I might tell the story but I didn’t clean up the punctuation. I translated the transcription. I shaped scenes within the stories he told. As I worked on the edits today, I was suddenly struck dumb by the quotation marks. They were Tom’s. They were his exact quotes; they were no longer appropriate to the rewrites. As I erased the quotations I lost him all over again. Each erasure took a little bit more of him away.

And…it’s a paradox. The erasure also brought him closer to me. Tom used to say that the stories of his kin where more than just stories, they were alive. He could not walk the ranch land without his ancestors walking with him. He told me that he knew who he was because he knew who they were. As I removed the quotes from the script the stories were no longer Tom’s, they became mine to tell. His story and mine became one, single tale. I realized that I cannot tell this story without Tom telling it with me. Like him, I know who I am because I know who he was. I couldn’t ask for better company to walk this story with me.

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One Response

  1. I have always envied people who have maintained some continuity with their ancestors. “Ancestors” seems like such a quaint word these days. But there is a loss that is almost unfathomable that so many of us living on the North American continent have, even the lucky few that remember stories from several generations back. Generations you can count on one hand are not so many. There was a break, not that far back, with the ancient lineages. And that rupture can never be restored. We should grieve such things. To lose your people is a profound, grievous loss.

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