Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A surreal experience

Sorry about not posting last week. I had a blog entry half-done and then life got in the way — big time.

My wife and I were in Ottawa: she to adjudicate at a music festival for the week and me to meet with a client and just work in our hotel room since it included free high-speed internet. If you’re a graphic designer, you can really work anywhere as long as you have high-speed and your computer.

That first afternoon, we got a phone call from New York that my wife’s brother had died very suddenly that morning. All bets were off and we were back in the car, heading for Toronto so she could pick up her passport and grab a flight home. Our boys and I followed in a car the next morning.

Now here’s where the surreality (is that a word?) comes in. All during the succeeding days, I kept finding myself switching into “research mode”. What were people going through? What were they saying? What was happening around me at the funeral home?

It was simultaneously terrible and fascinating, and had me feeling very guilty. I mean, this was a family tragedy and I was turning it into a writing exercise — at least some of the time.

Do we writers all do this? A few Christmas’s ago, we were the first on the scene for an accident on the New England Thruway, just outside of my hometown of Mamaroneck, and I did the same thing. Fortunately, at this one, nobody was hurt, just shaken up, but the people who caused the accident jumped out of their car and fled the scene, so that involved cops and all sorts of interesting things (for crime writers). Finally my wife said, “Do you think we could leave now? I mean they took our statements over an hour ago.” I believe I would have stayed all night to watch the drama of the runaway perps play out.

I may or may not ever use any of what I observed last week, but if I do, you can be sure it will be with twinges of guilt.

Sleep well, Dan.


Donis Casey said...

My husband has been having serious health problems for many months, lots of hopeful moments, lots of depression. During crises, I can only live in the moment, but fortunately, most of the time things are fine, or at worst, endurable. And I do exactly the same thing you are talking about - I'm in my writer mind all the time. I told my husband that I think the whole point of this exercise is to give us lots of material.
Please express my deepest sympathy to your wife for the loss of her brother, and my love to you, too.

Rick Blechta said...


ErinB said...

Dan, that is no different than my fascination with court. Sometimes I head down to the courthouse on criminal court days and just sit and listen. It's amazingly informative.. if not a little nutty.

Rick Blechta said...

Good point, Erin. I'm sure we all do "research" wherever we go. It just felt a little "off" to be doing it at a relative's funeral.

And by the way, Dan is the name of my deceased brother-in-law. That felt a little weird, too.

Thanks for commenting.