Sunday, January 27, 2013

Giving Birth to a Memoir: Part 1: Conception

A writer writes, so in 2004 when my husband was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, I resolved to write a book called Leukemia Wife, in which I would share with others whose spouses were facing cancer some suggestions  for how to get through it.  It would be an upbeat book with tips on how to manage everyday life while, like me, working ten hours a day and making daily visits to the hospital.  It would have hints on how to be more efficient, how to cheer your spouse,  how to deal with chores that used to be his.  (OMG, now I have to take out the trash...get the car repaired...fix the leaky toilet.  By myself!)

As time went on, I decided to add a chapter on how to get along with insensitive doctors and insurance companies and how to convince your husband that the meals sent to his room were delicious--of course, they weren't crappy--I knew because I was eating the same gourmet food in the cafeteria.

But my perky book was not to be.  Ralph got sicker and sicker.  "Medical mishaps" occurred.  The month-long stay in the hospital turned into two, months.  And the disease, which had been in remission, returned, to take over his blood system and to end his life barely a year after it made its presence known with an ordinary sore throat.

I don't journal.  I like structured writing. I find it more painful to write down my meandering thoughts than to speak them aloud.  So in the early months of widowhood  I didn't heed friends' suggestions to work through my grief on the page.  Instead, I went to counseling, tried a grief group, vented to my children. 

But again, a writer writes.  The urge to write awoke inside.  I couldn't write a happily-ever-after story like the ones I'd written for Harlequin and Silhouette--not then.  But the need to write grew stronger.  I wanted to write about Ralph and his struggle...and mine.  I wanted--needed--to write a memoir about our final year together.  The problem was, I didn't know how.

Next week:  Giving Birth to a Memoir, Part 2:  Gestation



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