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  • April 30th, 2010 | 12:49 AM
30 Poems in 30 Days - Family Stories


My personal challenge for National Poetry Month is to write
a poem a day about the father I have never known.

Here we are, at the end of National Poetry month and this is my last poem in the series about my father. I wasn't quite sure what would happen to me during this month but I knew that I would be changed by the experience because that's what writing does, it changes you. What I was hoping for was to find a way to finally heal, after all these years, and let go of any of the anger and frustration I have had at the man who was my father only in the biological sense. I'm tired of carrying all that hurt around. It's a heavy load and it slows me down. I've tried to let go of it all before and never had much luck but this time, things were different. I could tell that right from the start.

I'm going to pause right now to tell you this is a longish post but I'm also going to ask you to keep on reading. I think you'll be glad you did so when you get to the end. (Actually I will break it into two parts because it's a long story.)

These have all been first draft poems written late at night after I've forced myself to sit still and quietly revisit those old hurts. I don't have a lot of memories so as the month went on, it got a little more difficult to mine the past for new poems but somehow, every night, something bubbled up that needed remembering so it could be put to rest. I didn't revise the poems or sit on them overnight so often, in the morning, there were mistakes in grammar, bad line breaks, even a few facts I got wrong - all stuff that needed fixing. Normally the idea that I've been posting poems with mistakes in them would make me cringe but this time, I was okay with it because in the writing of every poem I've been feeling myself heal. There's a scar, there always will be, but I no longer feel defined by the fact that I grew up without a father. I am who I am because of the things I've done in my life, the choices I've made, and while I am far from perfect, I'm pretty happy with how I turned out.

For all of you who read and posted comments and sent me emails offering support on this emotional journey, I thank you. I could feel you all holding me up when I was trying so hard not to fall apart. And for those of you who read but didn't comment, I could feel you there too. Really.

So here's my final poem of the series with an afterward worthy of an after-school special movie.

FAMILY STORIES

I grew up a lonely, only child in a
neighborhood of other people's grandparents.

Imaginary friends kept me company in my attic bedroom
except for those few weeks during summer vacation
when grandkids came to visit
up and down the street.

What I wanted as much
or maybe even more than a father
was a sense of family,
of feeling like I belonged,
a chance to find myself
in the faces of my family.

My mom and I
were the only Webbs I ever knew
and I felt the absence of that family
nearly every day.
It didn't seem to matter to me
if they were good or bad
what mattered
was that they were someplace
that I wasn't and for the longest time
I translated that in my mind
to mean that I was less than everyone else.

I learned to tell stories by watching television
and rewriting the endings of my favorite shows
when I was supposed to be asleep.
I'd hide under the covers
and rearrange the scenes in my head
so the star of the show had to search for someone,
a missing daughter
a missing sister
a missing someone,
who always
turned out to be me.

All I ever wanted
was to write a happy ending
to my family history.

I think I've finally figured out
that family stories are different for everyone
and it's up to you to do the research
to fill in the blanks
of what you don't know
and then rewrite your story
so it all comes out
just the way you want it to.

Who I am
is not because of him
or in spite of him.

Who I am
is because of me
because of all I have experienced
because of all I have done (and not done)
because of the choices I have made
to live the life I am living.

Who I am
just fine
just right
just who I am
supposed to be.

@copyright Susan Taylor Brown 2010
    All Rights Reserved


This got too long so I broke the "you won't believe this" story into another post. Read how poetry, Google, and Craigslist helped me find the family I never knew I had.

Great Kids Books has the round-up of all the Poetry Friday posts today.

There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.



Comments

( 16 comments — Leave comment )
(Anonymous)
April 30th, 2010 09:24 am (UTC)
thank you, Susan
What a wonderful 30 days it has been! I have felt so privileged to be able to share your insightful, raw, honest, anguished self through your words.

Book Chook
susanwrites
April 30th, 2010 04:08 pm (UTC)
Re: thank you, Susan
Thank you for reading along with me.
mlyearofreading
April 30th, 2010 10:02 am (UTC)
"Who I am
just fine
just right
just who I am
supposed to be."

So true in general, but you've made it come to life with your stories. Thank you.
susanwrites
April 30th, 2010 04:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you. If every child could know that who they are right now is who they are supposed to be and that it is good enough, that it is GREAT, perhaps there would be less of us who go through life struggling with our self-worth.
(Anonymous)
April 30th, 2010 01:23 pm (UTC)
from Laura Shovan
Your bravery is inspiring, Susan.
susanwrites
April 30th, 2010 04:07 pm (UTC)
Re: from Laura Shovan
Thank you, Laura. Sometimes I don't feel very brave but I'm trying.
d_michiko_f
April 30th, 2010 03:34 pm (UTC)
I've been waiting for this one! :) love you! xoxo
susanwrites
April 30th, 2010 04:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for your support through this! Love you too! We are STRONG women! And we totally rock!
tracyworld
April 30th, 2010 04:49 pm (UTC)
What a beautiful ending to your poetry month.

"Who I am
just fine
just right
just who I am
supposed to be."

Yes, indeed.
(Anonymous)
May 1st, 2010 05:18 am (UTC)
wow
Not sure what to say. This last poem, along with all the rest, are truly life-changing...for you, and to those of us who have had the privilege of following the story. Hopefully, these words will eventually make it out into the rest of the world, where people who have struggled with similar events can see that they are not alone. This in itself is so healing. Thanks for doing what you do...and for sharing with the rest of us.
Lori
susanwrites
May 1st, 2010 06:21 am (UTC)
Re: wow
Lori,
It has been a totally life-changing experience for me. I'm just so glad you are in my life now.

susanwrites
May 2nd, 2010 06:31 am (UTC)
Re: wow
And I just realized that I don't know if this is Lori my sister or Lori my art teacher? haha
(Anonymous)
May 1st, 2010 11:08 am (UTC)
After such a long journey, I do not know how I could possibly have missed the very last poem. Maybe it was meant to be. All I can say is that you turned out exactly how you were meant to mo ifs buts or otherwise.
Yes it is true we are the master of our own destiny. Finally I hope you can feel whole. I hope and I know that your family will be everything you want and need to make your life seem more fulfilled. (sorry Cassie) I just know what an important part of your life Cassie is as well and dread to think how her life would have been if you did not find her or her find you so it is kind of the same in a lot of ways.

Enjoy catching up with your new family. It is such an amazing story with a happy ending just like you always wanted in your dreams and in your stories. This one I am sure you will write for us one day. Go for it.

Anne McKenna
cloudscome
May 2nd, 2010 10:10 am (UTC)
Susan you have really done an amazing, wonderful thing here with your poetry this month. Thanks for sharing it and inspiring us all. Who you are truly is just right & very beautiful!
(Anonymous)
May 3rd, 2010 06:33 pm (UTC)
Glad you found us!
Susan, I'm so thankful that you have found us! I am enjoying sharing our families history and whatever pics I can find with you. Your poems are beautiful, written straight from the heart and I have enjoyed them. Hopefully, we can meet someday...a day I'm truly looking forward to!
Thank you for contacting us!
Pam Hill
(Anonymous)
May 4th, 2010 09:15 am (UTC)
tanita says :)
and it's up to you to do the research
to fill in the blanks
of what you don't know
and then rewrite your story
so it all comes out
just the way you want it to.


That's why this project has meant so much to me. I did that with MARE'S WAR; I rewrote the truth into something that hurt me less - and made it turn out the way I wanted it to.

Thank you for your courage in sharing with us all month.
( 16 comments — Leave comment )
WHO AM I?



Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.






Susan Taylor Brown

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