Dark Doors

Ask. I will tell you a story.

Tag: creative non-fiction

Memory and Mortality – 26 Feb

Day 26 – I’m cutting it fine today. Boy howdy, this was a tough day for writing. Knowing that I’ve got three more posts (including today), knowing that people are reading this (including friends from the MA course – hi, guys!), knowing that this was meant to help me increase my creativity… all that knowing created a hefty dose of writer’s block. And it’s not that I didn’t want to write – I do. This is actually my third attempt tonight at writing today’s post. It’s still not great, but it’s a damn sight better than the excrement my fingers kept crapping onto the page.

I knew going into this challenge that it wasn’t going to be easy. I didn’t want it to be. I wanted to teach myself discipline, and expand my creative muscle by exercising it. I think I was being a little too literal today and nothing I saw created a spark. Maybe I’m going over old ground, but this conversation with my son, in which we touched on memory and mortality was quite possibly the most important conversation we will have.

Read. And remember Pop Pop with us.


Conversation with my son over dinner turned philosophical – and not a little bit depressing, as we talked about my father. In the smallest voice I’ve heard from him – so small, I wasn’t even sure I heard – my son said, ‘I miss him.’ You can’t ignore a small voice like that. Not when it says the biggest thing it might ever say. ‘I miss him, too, kiddo.’ And off we went. Talking about what we remember of this man, the foundation of my life, who shaped my world and set me free when I needed to be.

Even the kid – who knew him for only a few short years – knew how gruff and grumbly my dad could be. But also how much he loved to laugh. Even if he was a bit embarrassed about it, he could not begrudge us a laugh. Like when the vets he worked with – who respected this man for decades, worked side by side with him, knew his gravity and his professionalism – when they discovered that my kid called him ‘Pop Pop’, they couldn’t help but laugh. Doc Bauman, the vet every farmer in Southwestern Ontario trusted, who helped generations of dairy farmers, was known by this tiny British toddler as Pop Pop. The cutest name for a grandfather ever invented (and stolen from a tv show). The contrast was hilarious.

I asked the kid if he minded that his own father is now Pop Pop to our first grandchild. The kid – wise beyond his years, sometimes (even though he still loses his phone, his wallet, his school tie) – told me with confidence that he was really happy about it. ‘It’s like we’re honouring him, by keeping that name alive.’ He didn’t even mention the other tv show reference. I think that surprised me more.

Continuing in this rather philosophical vein, and without meaning to, I told him that someday, maybe he’ll be called Pop Pop too. And that I hope I get to be there when it happens. That small voice returned: I hope you are too.

As one, we danced in opposite directions away from what that meant.

It really ain’t easy, talking about mortality with a twelve year old. But we did it, and didn’t get maudlin or teary. I don’t know if that’s a good thing. It’s just a thing.

Grey Dog Day – 22 Feb

Day 22  and here’s an offering of creative non-fiction. Today’s piece is less of me chipping off a piece of my heart and giving it to you. Today, I have shredded open everything, and I show you my whole mind and soul in this piece.

Like  many authors before me, I write about something I don’t understand so I can pin it down and make some sense of it. And grey dog days are the worst for finding meaning in living. I thought pinning words to it would help. I’ll let you know.

Today is a grey dog day. Not full black, because I can still get up and function and do laundry and interact and appear happy. But today the happiness is an act. Because the grey dog has decided to tag along.

Grey dog tells me horrible things. What does he say? I’ll see if I can translate. It’s mostly flashes of images that are gone before I can focus on them, but mostly the grey dog works with emotions. He’s cunning bastard too, using the smallest things to grind me down, until the tears threaten to fall while I’m standing in the line at Asda. I am almost ready to believe him and everything he says, but I’m not quite ready to sit and roll over and weep. Yet. But it is a very close thing. I’ll let the grey dog have the keyboard.

See those jeans? The style you like, but none in your size. Those ones? Right size but hideous design. You’ll look like a deformed Barbie from the 70s if you tried to wear those. The stretchy ones? Forget it. You’ll either looked like over-stuffed sausage or you’ll rip them, like you did those other ones. Doesn’t matter that those jeans were almost ten years old and wearing thin. You still ripped the butt out of them, bending over with your fat ass. Can you write? Are you sure you’re a writer? Are you sure you’re good at it? You deserve to never know, to never be certain. You’re not even good enough to win tiny little contests in a restricted pool. You must suck. People don’t like you much, because they avoid you and others bully you and others pick at you and how do you know for certain that the people you think are your friends are really your friends? What if they’re just complaining about you once you’re gone? What if they’re just putting up with you because they need to do penance for something, and they figure spending a couple of hours with you and your mess is enough to wipe them clean of their own sins? They don’t really like you – they’re probably complaining about you behind your back, and you can’t really trust anyone. You’re awful. You tried to say something nice to another blogger, and somebody gave you a thumbs-down. Because you’re an insensitive bitch and you shouldn’t be inflicted upon humanity. You haven’t a hope in hell of succeeding and being happy. That day when you were happy and couldn’t stop smiling? Remember that day? When you realised that everything you were working towards has finally fallen into place and you’re on your way to achieving your dream? Guess what? You’re probably bipolar. You already have me to trigger your depression, and those days of elation are just the other side of it. You’re probably bipolar, and you don’t really know what that means because you’re stupid, and lazy and won’t go look it up and you’re too much of a coward to ask the doctor because of that one that laughed at you twelve years ago when you asked about the recurring dizziness and told you to live with it. You deserve to feel like this. You deserve to believe that no one loves you. You deserve to believe that you’re a talentless hack with no taste and you definitely deserve to believe that you’ll never be good at what you love. You deserve every horrible thing that you’ve ever thought about yourself because it’s true. You’re a moron.

So. That’s grey dog. And he’s not the full-on black dog. But he’s still a right c**t.

Some people who follow this blog know me, and I’ve told them before that most of these entries aren’t me in the leading role. This one still isn’t, really. But I’m the ‘you’ in this narrative. These days don’t happen very often but when they do…

I hope this gives some insight into what it’s like to live with mental illness – because that’s what I have. I have anxiety and depression, and most days, I can live with it and not notice it. Other days, not so much. Mainly because of grey dog days. They suck.

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