In September, DWW member Virginia Parker taught a memoir workshop. I sat in on her session and she hit on a hard question that comes up for me over and over again. What if the truth you write damages relationships with loved ones? Does writing matter more than the relationship(s)? If so, go ahead, but be aware, there will be consequences.
After the workshop, I thanked Virginia for that straightforward key to understanding memoir. I’ve got a closet full of darkness in my past and many is the time I’ve wanted to shine a light there. But I don’t. I won’t. And then I got a request for a short memoir piece about step-families. My kids have two step-parents. They don’t remember a time when their bio dad and I were together.
I wrote a tepid 800 words. Nothing sparked, it was kind of blah, I was holding back.
One night I decided to write the hard truth, even if I never published it. I don’t write at night unless something upsets me. And I was upset, and still am, because we are not taking a trip out west this year. I even proposed going alone, just two or three days with each of the boys. That wasn’t in the budget either.
I could have fought Al on it, but I held my tongue. Not my pen. I went upstairs and wrote the cold hard truth of why he became my children’s stepfather. This was days ago and I’ve been putting off looking at it again because the truth is stark.
I have always been a huge fan of my boys’ stepmom. That was pretty much the 800 words. In praise of her. But even then, I left off the meat. Not about her. About Al.
Don’t get me wrong: I love my husband. He was and is a good stepfather. But more went into the equation when I married him than love. He’s always known it. It was not a secret. One of the reasons I married my husband is because my lawyer told me to. My ex was suing for full custody and lady lawyer said “You seeing anyone?” Yes. “Is it serious? Are you in love?” Yes. “You shoud get married. It will look better in court.”
And so that’s what we did. We got married. He tried to extend our engagement but I said no. I said if you love me you will help me keep my kids. We split up over it for a few weeks. I could not love someone who would not do this for me. He came back, and we married, but his resentment lingered. And why not? I had blackmailed my way into the marriage.
I’m not proud of that and maybe that’s why when he says “not this year” to a trip out west, I let him have his way.