A few years ago, I wrote a letter to Walmart complaining about some policy or other that was in the news (I honestly don’t remember what it was I wrote about). Their letter back to me — 8 months later — can be boiled down to the five words in the title of this post.
To put it in modern parlance, they ghosted me.
No problem, it’s fucking WallyWorld…could you ever expect anything different?
So, today, I read a news story from my old hometown about fire evacuations.
Wait a second…my parents are in that evac zone!
A call, then. My dad doesn’t answer, so I try my mom…
“Hi mom, I was just checking…” I say.
“We’re waiting at a restaurant. Thank you for your concern.” Click.
Did my own mother just ghost me?!?!
Holy shit, has my life come down to this?!
Look, I’m a writer. Words and motivations and twists are a part of every thought I have, every single day. But nowhere in those thoughts did I get ghosted by my own mother!
Crap, I knew my family didn’t necessarily like the kind of stuff I write here, but that there is some dark comedy…even for the black sheep of the clan.
On the other hand — to turn this post into a writing bit — can we, as writers, ever overestimate the impact of family relationships?
One of my favorite thought-exercises on this comes from British history. To set the scene, Richard, Duke of Aquitaine (who we would later call Richard the Lionheart) rebelled against his aging, failing father in order to seize power. Richard won. He won, but his own father’s last words to him still resonate, even today, “God grant that I live long enough to have my revenge on you.”
Henry didn’t…live long enough, that is.
It is not, however, those words that truly illustrate the power of the familial relationshipS. No, that power comes from a scene that came after Henry’s death. It took a while, but once Richard arrived at the family crypt at the abbey of Fontevraud, history tells us that he went in alone to be with his father’s corpse…
What went through his mind? What was he thinking?
Henry II had been the most feared warrior and king of his age. Of Henry it had been said, “it is hard to wrest the club from Hercules’ hand.”
Richard had wrested that club…from his very own father.
What did he think, standing in that crypt, alone with his father’s body?
Was he ashamed? Afraid? Angry? Did he dream of surpassing the deeds of the man an entire continent feared? Did he question himself?
Yeah, crap like that is why we write. We write to explore situations and dynamics. We write so we can try to find the universal truths in the lives and actions of others.
We write, to be bluntly honest, so we can have our fun with situations like that.
We write even if we get ghosted by our moms…