It was the end of the day, and we laid on the beach- happy and burned, covered with sand and sweat, feeling the delightful contentment that comes from spending the day in the sun.
Our chairs formed a semicircle as we began to chat: my father, my sisters, my brother, my husband, and I.
I’m not sure how it happened, or why. What words were said or when. But my Dad was in the hot seat. This happens a lot with us. The pull of the big family collects and builds, growing into a gigantic wave as each of us piles on top of the other. A beauty to withhold. Unless you’re the one pinned underneath the wave.
My Dad was in the hot seat, and we were being relentless in the way that only family can get away with. Somehow the topic ventured to his writing, or lack thereof.
What you have to know, what you have to understand is, my Dad is a creative genius. I know that is a bold claim. And I know I am prone to hyperbole, but I am not exaggerating here. This is my stake in the ground, and I will defend it until my dying day. Or probably his, as his tombstone will inevitably read “Here Lies Dad, A Creative Genius”.
If you’ve met my Dad, if you’ve listened to his show, then you know I’m not wrong. Creatives are a dying breed, and my Dad is one of the few true ones left. Everything about his existence is inventive and dynamic and just, magic.
There is a book inside of that man, of that I am sure. (There’s also a movie and a theme park, but it all starts with the book). A book he has already conceptualized. A book that is hilarious and unique and textured. But a book that he cannot seem to get off the ground.
We start in, and I can feel it grow. The wave is mounting, picking up speed- dangerously close to crashing.
My husband looks at me, and I avert his gaze. I know what he is thinking. He doesn’t understand. Never could. He wasn’t raised in this brand of prickly love. Never baptized in the cold waters of honesty.
I’m doing my best martyr impression:
You are depriving the world of your gift!
You just need to focus!
Writing requires discipline, you know.
You have to make the time, dammit!
All true. But the problem isn’t the words, it’s the delivery. It always is with me. But this is a little much. I’m extra-heated, brutally sharp. The words are loaded. I am suddenly angrier than I’ve been in a long time.
My Dad knows the drill by now. He sticks to the script, plays his part well. Sits there and takes it as his 23-year-old daughter lectures him, father of seven, on time management skills. He knows to pause, to let the rant run its course, but his frustration becomes obvious as he removes his sunglasses, rubs his eyes, takes a deep breath. He is a man with a long threshold and a short fuse, and I’m approaching the breaking point.
I know it and start to retreat, not wanting to be on the receiving end of that backlash. Not at all satisfied, I mumble a halfhearted apology involving something about his “best interests” and do my best to let it go.
My Dad, the man that he is, forgives and forgets, and it is dropped and left there on the beach as we go inside. We do not take it with us.
It’s taken me years to realize that this was the moment I decided to become a writer. I’ve traced my steps all the way back to that afternoon on the sand, where the words were loaded and the anger was hot. Sometimes rage is an arrow, a lit-up neon sign begging you to pay attention.
I was a writer who wasn’t writing. Moreover, I was a writer who didn’t even know I should be writing. This part of me, this crucial, vital piece was buried deep inside, begging to be set free. Just the mention of writing, just a little crack, was enough to give it some air, to spark the tiniest flame, to bring the thing back to life.
We left the argument on the beach that day. But I did take something with me, after all. Long after the sand had been washed away, those words and feelings remained, tugging at my heart, forcing me to pay attention. To take them out and stare at them. To let this anger teach me. I didn’t know where to start, but I knew I had to. And that was something.
Hell, looking back now, it just might have been everything.