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Tag Archives: autobiography

found poem: poetry


DAK unfinished letterThis morning, wondering what I might write about, I opened the bottom drawer of a file cabinet and pulled out a folder labeled LETTERS in my mother’s handwriting. There were perhaps a dozen notes and letters in the folder, mostly from one friend, but among them was this handwritten draft, written by my mother when she was about 83.

For a number of years, Dorothy had been enrolled in an autobiography class at Santa Monica College and this appears to be the beginning of something written for that class. (Poignantly, it’s scrawled on the back of a Xeroxed note from an 85-year-old man, perhaps a classmate, on the occasion of his twin brother’s funeral.)

For all her creativity and sensitivity, my mother seemed little aware of how her actions or behaviors might affect others. She recognized, even cultivated, her differentness, which, she believed, entitled her to act the way she did, without excuse, and to lay the blame elsewhere.

The autobiography class encouraged her to reflect, for perhaps the first time — gave her the right to be the Sun in a heliocentric world. She enjoyed the process and was excited by the discoveries she made. But she most savored the moments when she could stand in front of the class to read aloud what she had written, flirting and coy, dramatic and hungry for the inevitable applause.

These pieces are hard to read, both for what’s said and what’s not said. Here she begins with energy and intent, revealing — perhaps discovering — halfway down the page this important truth about her marriage (and life): “I had great expectations that all the consideration and thoughtfulness should be directed toward me.”

I am touched by her many edits in pen and pencil, her struggle for words and phrasing, her efforts to find and say something that’s true. And oh, that last addition, that unfinished sentence, just when she was about to tell what I most wanted to know.

Here is the text of her first draft before any editing:

Recently I read an article in the LA Times (Joyce Gabriel: the Stamford Advocate) about the ingredients of lasting love in a relationship. The author recalled wise advice of a friend’s grandmother who believed consideration to be the primary importance between spouse.

I agree.

I’m not sure whether 47 years ago when I met my husband that I was as wise as Grandma — as a matter of fact I believe I had great expectations that all the consideration and thoughtfulness should be directed toward me — I needed a lot of it and though I wasn’t aware at the time there was ample space in my heart to store a good supply — so needed and an ample supply to — I knew how good it felt to pack and store all this rich material inside myself but little awareness of how to share it how to trade it for equal with someone else. This part of love wasn’t necessary anyhow, as in

self centeredness was my game — it started in my early years