I have déjà vu. Once again, I’m rewriting my manuscript. Several months of fading motivation, a journey to my father’s family reunion and six weeks of travel around Europe where I had plenty of time to sit back and think, have culminated in a total rewrite of my father’s story. Although I had already sought a manuscript assessment and was half-heartedly working through some of the suggestions, I knew it just wasn’t right. Eventually, I gave up, citing every excuse under the sun. One day, I was sure I would come up with a way to write my father’s story. A way which didn’t need resentment and rage to hold interest.
When I began my memoir, I instigated it out of anger. After my father’s death, I had begun to clean out the house my parents had bought 50 years before. Not only had they accumulated more and more material possessions, they had also brought trunks of useless things with them when we immigrated to Australia. My mother had died seven years ago, and my father had done nothing about clearing out her room, let alone his own or the rest of the house. I was furious with him, with her and with myself. I don’t even know why I was furious with myself.
So, I did what I always do when I’m angry, or sad, or confused. I wrote it all down. With each word the anger lessened ever so slightly, the grief wasn’t quite as overwhelming as it might have been, and I was able to clear out 50 years of furniture, clothes, toiletries, booze, reminiscences, hopes and dreams. Writing was less expensive than therapy and, in my case, worked just as well.
There was only one problem, looking back at what I started writing almost six years ago, I can see I didn’t so much write the words as vomit them onto the page in anger. The book I envisaged wasn’t a book, it was a mess of memories, a tangle of rage, a chaotic jumble of remarks and declarations which had no meaning for anyone but myself.
However, I still feel my father’s story deserves to be told. But this time it will be all about him, just as he would have liked. I will attempt to piece together his childhood, from his birth to refugee parents, through to his dysfunctional childhood with a sick mother and a tough father, the years he spent in the German army and his many, many loves and disappointments.
So, I am embarking on rewrite number… lord only knows what number I’m up to! Hopefully this version of my manuscript won’t take me the five years the previous versions did.