Yesterday was a productive day. I wrote about 700 words. My daily goal is 300 words, five days a week and whatever I accomplish during the weekend is gravy. This doesn't sound like much -- slightly less than a page a day -- but it's just enough that I can feel some measure of daily satisfaction during this most hated phase of writing: getting the initial draft on paper so I can then have the fun of hacking it to pieces. And once I've written 300 words I'm usually into it enough that end up exceeding that daily goal.
My brother Abel had a rule about meals and portion control: not liking one of the foods being served did not mean you got to take extra of the food you did like. Just because you don't like zucchini doesn't mean you get extra mashed potatoes! I've adapted this rule slightly and applied it to my writing: just because I write 700 words one day doesn't mean I can get away with writing less than three hundred the next day, or worse yet, skipping a day. Not meeting that 300 words is only permissible in extreme circumstances. A poor night's sleep for me does NOT qualify, but I think we can all agree that Beata calling in sick is an act of God.
My daily reward is knitting in front of the television, surrounded by adoring spaniels.
After I wrote yesterday's 700 words, I finished and blocked Sabina's college afghan (Ravelried here) ... and then I had an OFD nostalgia attack. When these attacks happen -- and they do happen less often -- I think of the first line of Stephanie Vaughn's short story "Dog Heaven."
Every so often that dead dog dreams me up again.
Except it's my dead dad that dreams me up. I understand why Vaughn worded it this way, because it does not feel like I've chosen to think about OFD. It feels like he has, somehow, summoned me.
In this instance, I was watching a rerun of Mad Men: the one where (spoiler alert!) Kennedy is assassinated. I know everything my mom was doing at that horrible time, but not OFD. This was intolerable, made more so by the fact that I could not ask him. What I love most about Mad Men -- that it fills in the historical blanks for me of when my family existed but I did not -- was ultimately unsatisfying. My dad was no Don Draper. He was not an unapproachable man of mystery who came home from work when I was already in my pajamas. He was an academic with a schedule compatible to mine, and he was a dad who played Barbie Airplane with me.
All thoughts of Kennedy disappeared and the intolerable thing was, as always, that OFD is still dead. You'd think I'd be used to this feeling since I've had it so often since Abel's death: the feeling that since we're all working so hard to adjust, to help each other, and to be grown ups about the whole thing, we more than deserve to have him returned to us.
I am not very good at crying. I don't do it very often, and once I start I find it hard to stop. I had to pick up Olive from school in twenty minutes and did not want to have to explain to Olive's aide that I was crying because Kennedy got shot.
Andra and I have a relationship where we can call each other sobbing hysterically and the other party will not assume that someone new has died. We have each called each other in tears at least four times that I can think of right off the top of my head. And in each case, we have been able to take the other's apparent catastrophe and put it in a perspective neither of us could have achieved on our own. This is no small thing. This is, in fact, a huge thing.
Within ten minutes of my calling her, we were both laughing about the time Hen called my mom in a panic, sure that he had a gas leak in his apartment when it turned out the suspicious smell was coming from his brand new shower curtain. Somehow Hen had managed to keep this story from Andra, and I'm glad I was able to remedy this omission.
Regardless of who calls whom and who's the one doing the sobbing, it makes me feel better just to marvel that my brother, who could not tie his own shoes until he was thirteen, has managed to find Andra: a person who my soul has selected into its minuscule society so effortlessly that I don't remember when my guard came down. And oddly, she seems to like me, too.
A few hours later Hen called me himself: on November 22, 1963, schools closed early because of the tragedy. OFD had been wearing a blue V-necked sweater, a windbreaker, and was smoking his pipe when he arrived to pick up his two sons: ages nine and twelve.
I have no words to describe the comfort of hearing this information.