The Truth Board

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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

You, Me, and a Story

My life is mine and yours is yours and we are free to narrate our existence in whatever way we choose. The world runs on a story, and although everyone’s story is different, there is a thread of humanity that binds them all together with certain truths.

First, from my point of view: My grandfather is dying. To me, his name is Grandpa Mac and he lives in public housing outside of Chicago. My grandmother divorced him after he cheated on her repeatedly. Because he traveled for business, he was tempted by isolation and anonymity into affairs. He has spent the last 24 years alone, and it shows. When he visits, which has only been a handful of times, he talks about how cheap pork chops are at Costco, or the weather. He is an under stimulated, lonely, and regretful man. Now, his liver is failing and he is clearly approaching the end of his life. And even though this may be his last time seeing me or my siblings, he still talks in a sort of numb-speak, safe uncontroversial language that maintains eye contact and nothing else. I wish he would pull me aside and say, “I am old and dying and I want to talk about what is making me afraid.” Then, profundity ensues.

Next, from my little sister Maggie: My grandfather is dying. To me, his name is Grandpa Mac and I think he comes from where Mom and Dad come from. He is always laughing but he seems confused. I don’t think he eats much good food at home because all he talks about is how delicious dinner is. I don’t like it when he asks me about school, school doesn’t matter and I don’t want to talk about it. Him and Grandma Rita aren’t married but I guess they used to be because they are my Dad’s parents. Mom said Grandpa was sick and lost when she picked him up at the airport. He is old. It’s annoying when all the old people ask me questions I don’t care about. I wonder when they’re leaving.

Finally, from my Grandpa: I am dying. I haven’t gotten to spend a lot of time with my grandkids. I brought them board games so that should make them happy though. This is great, to be with my family. I wish I lived down here and I could visit all the time. There is so much to talk about and I love seeing the kids laughing and carrying on. I hope they like me. I hope I don’t do anything stupid. I can’t believe I got lost at the airport now the whole family thinks I’m about to die. I’m about to die. The kids loved playing Monopoly but I just couldn’t do it because I don’t know if I can keep up with something like that. Rita looks happy, her husband Jim sure likes to tell stories and everyone seems to like him. I wonder who they like more. I wonder how much the kids know about me. I hope they like me.

Of course, this is all me. The closest I can get to my sister and grandfather’s thoughts are inventing a story based on how they have acted, things they said, and the expressions on their faces. My job, then, is to get the real stories out of them. Avoid the numb-speak and put our stories in the open. For my sister, I imagine what I think I would have thought at that age, and for my grandfather I project my concept of old age. But still, people are understood by the stories others create about them.
I am concerned about the way those closest to me are narrating their lives, as I am sure you are too. I want the people I love to see for themselves the value that I see in them. To do this, the only thing to do is to take turns listening to one another, and combining our individual narratives. Not gossip or self-indulgent conversation, but patient and real listening. For we are the vessels not only for our own stories but also for the stories of others. We are created within each other as much as we are in ourselves. Take time to be someone’s vessel today.

-Sean McEvoy

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