My sister Lisa called me the other day, “Did you have a man named Robert or Bob in one of your memoir writing classes?”
I had to think for a minute. “Was he an older gentleman?”
“Yes. In his 60’s.”
“Oh, I remember him.”
My memoir writing class started a month after my mother’s death, three months after my mastectomy and was held during the period of my breast reconstruction. It’s been observed that sometimes a person can be too close to write about something objectively. I was not only close, I was living the story as I wrote it and it didn’t matter. Writing about the past year and to be around people is what I wanted. The class suited my needs completely. Grief is a funny thing and no one handles it the same as the next. My sister Lisa joined a bereavement group while I felt best to write my story in the third person. It’s as though the distance of storyteller helped me digest the emotional horror of the past six months. The memoir class also proved to be immensely entertaining. There were 10 people in the class and each had a story to tell.
There was Mark, the Australian lawyer, who had a love affair with a motorcycle named Cheri (my darling in French). He would read to us in his melodic Australian accent the adventures he had taken on the back of Cheri throughout India. Most of the women in the class swooned from his story or maybe it was just the accent. I enjoyed both. Then there was the fashionable lesbian, Lisa, who tried to commit suicide when her girlfriend left her and then rebuilt her life. We got the sordid details. Every week we would read 3 different stories and then discuss. There was some writing in class but mostly we had 10 pages of rather intimate details of the members of our group. It was natural we would all bond. There was one person who didn’t bring us anything to read and that was Bob. He showed up to most of the classes but never submitted anything. He kept forgetting his assignments at one of his two homes. I do remember him reading some of his work written during class. He was happy and wrote about a party he attended in Florida that he just loved. He didn’t show up to the last few classes and we assumed he had gotten too busy.
I asked Lisa, “So what did you want to know?”
“His daughter is in my bereavement group. He died last December. It turns out he was diagnosed with a brain tumor shortly after that class ended.”
I felt horrible. He had signed up for a class to learn how to tell his story and wasn’t able to. Always ready with a smile, handsome and amiable is how I would describe him. Yet, there was a story there that he felt motivated to try and tell. The world is small that my sister should end up in the same group as Bob’s daughter. That Bob should have read my work as I grieved for my mother also adds to the circularity of it all. I wish I knew more of the man to share but I don’t. Instead, all I have to offer his daughter are my sincere condolences. I understand and know the enormity of her loss.