Watercolor of Doughnuts, painted by That Art Girl 3/7/19 (Above)
I have to ask: Is an Illuminated Memoir a real genre? I've Googled this term a few times and haven't happened across many illustrated memoirs for adults. I've been reading a few middle grade chapter books as of late for my new library job. I've noticed the authors often make little drawings in the book to get their point across. I have to wonder if adults enjoy the same thing. I know I enjoy making them. I have stories to tell and I like to put pictures with it. I just have to assume it's not a widely-utilized format.
The word "memoir" keeps popping up on my stream-of-consciousness dream and goal list. I want to write stories about my life, David Sedaris-style. His book Me Talk Pretty One Day is an aspirational piece for me. I'm in a writer's group but always bring visuals. I frequently announce that I'm not a writer, but here I am, thinking I can do it.
I noticed that one of my colleagues leads a memoir class here at the library branch where I work. I was thrilled as I began to imagine sharing my story with the group. It was the proximity of a Memoir Group so close to me and my place of employment that coaxed me into actually starting. Time to get it on paper--- the story that's been kicking around my head for a good long while: the final days of my Dad's life. It might sound like a heavy subject, but maybe it is. I can promise I've woven a great deal of levity throughout the text. In fact, I have to wonder whether or not I've included too much mirth in my little story. Too many times I've been in this situation: jabbering on about a subject that I know my siblings would find hilarious. Then I stop long enough to regard the face of the person in front of me---and he/she is wearing a distinct look of horror. Hey, you don't have to tell me I'm twisted. I'm fully aware, thank you very much! I'm merely a product of my environment.
The painting here a recreation of the box of doughnuts my sister brought to my parent's house to begin what we affectionately call "The Death Watch". The following is an excerpt from the short story I call "Holy Week":
Since my Dad was an altar server, Pre-Vatican II days at St. Matthias Church in Queens, I learned some inside scoop about what goes down on Holy Saturday. It’s the only day in the Liturgical Year that a mass must not be said, as it commemorates the day that Jesus laid in his tomb. The priests are busy burning palms to make next year’s ashes and blessing oils and such.
That was why I was surprised that my Mother got a priest to come over and administer Last Rites on such short notice, being that it was Holy Saturday and all. “Did you ask him to do it in Latin? I asked. “Dad always liked the Latin mass better.”
“Well I should say they should come!” Mom said, “We’ve been members in this church for over 4o years. All you kids went to their Catholic School for goodness sake. I’m just sad that Fr. Manny or Fr Mike aren’t coming. It’s that priest that nobody likes, Fr. Bartrum.”
“Mom, that’s a terrible thing to say.” I scolded her. “It’s not important who comes, it’s just that Dad gets absolution, right?”
She’s shaking her head as she climbs the stairs. Clearly she doesn’t agree with me and she’d much rather have one of the popular and fun priests come over to her house.
Fr. Bartrum arrives and all three daughters are gathered around the deathbed to pray. My Mother emerges within moments with new hair and fresh make-up for the priest administering Last Rites to my father. I start thinking that the old man would probably like this scene. He was always happy when people gathered to pay attention to him. This was kind of the ultimate attention.