“‘Dad Shining’ is a terrible name for a story.,” said a certain someone.
I replied, “The Chicago Tribune must have liked it. They’re going to publish it.”
I worked on “Dad Shining” for some time, not quite knowing what the ending needed. Then it struck me:
We grow up not really understanding our parents or why they do the things they do. When we become adults, if our maturity doesn’t lend itself to that understanding then it should lead us to empathy.
We can’t possibly know our parents challenges in the same way we comprehend our own. Therefore, we must let things go, forgive, and move on. (Whatever that forgiveness means to you. Don’t be tortured by the past)
My father passed four years ago this month. The story “Dad Shining” was published two months before he passed. (For which, I’m happy.)
It’s not a story of my father, nor of me. But it is a story of a child coming to some sort of peace with himself and extending compassion to the father he never quite understood.
(A little trivia for you – the cover was taken in Virginia where Poe’s mother is buried)
Family myths are the richest to mine for stories. Family myths are things that a great aunt or uncle might have done, where they may have worked, lives they may – or may not – have lived.
It is rumored that one of my great grandmothers was Hoffa’s ex-girlfriend. Although when we tried to match up the timeline, it didn’t quite match; however, given a few corrections here and there – who knows?! It’s fun to think about.
Another family myth involves my grandfather – even telling the story here feels like I’m giving away secrets about my family, but my grandmother swore to her dying day that the tale was myth.
My grandfather was shot in the back by a police officer. A number of different stories are told as to why he was shot, but the officer stated he was aiming for his legs.
My grandfather was over 6 feet tall. The cop must have been the worst shot in the world if he was aiming at his legs.
My grandmother lived with people creating myths as to why he was shot. She would tell us stories about aunts and cousins who came to her asking for the truth, asking for money, asking for what they believed my grandmother had which caused his death. I was present for one such argument before my grandmother passed of a cousin asking her for the truth before she died. Grandma’s Last Secret is about one of those myths.
I love family myths so much, that I’m planning to write more stories about them. Maybe I’ll write “Hoffa’s Runaway Bride” someday.
All families have secrets. I think that’s why some of us become fiction writers. Maybe, much to our family’s horror.
Secrets released in fiction is like water under pressure – there’s a spurt which resembles something other than what it really is. So, mostly, our family is safe.
Some secrets come to us second hand – the things people told us, what we know of other families, friends, acquaintances. In all honesty, these are my favorites.
The Gold Tooth is an amalgamation of family secrets. These are separate things from different people whispered to me at times, laughed about at other times, assumptions from other people – all mixed up in a writer’s brain to spurt out under the pressure of a story.
My grandmother told me a story in which a mother, in trying to teach her children biggest is not best, used to offer the children unmarked gifts in various sizes. Whoever choose based on the biggest gift didn’t necessarily received the best gift.
A friend told me she’d inherited teeth from an aunt.
Another friend provided details about an uneven and questionable disbursement of a will and trust.
They all mashed together to create this story of a mother who tried to teach her daughters a lesson, protect one, maybe both, by the terms of a her will.
Feel free to tell your secrets to a fiction writer. They’ll never tell the whole truth.