This I Believe
Whenever I feel like I’m drowning, I take out a notebook and let the words spill out. I believe that writing has the power to keep my spirit afloat when the turbulent waves of life threaten to carry it away.
I use Eau Claire notebooks, made in France. I discovered them at a crammed West Village stationary store seven years ago, soon after my father was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Their smooth blank pages ached to be pressed with a pen.
I bought one and raced home to write in the comfort of my couch. There, my words sped across the lines, rubbing shoulders with big, fat tears. Each one was a breath, a prayer, a release—for my father—and together, they bled into each other as if to let me know that what I was writing about didn’t matter so much as the fact that I was writing at all.
One afternoon, I placed a blank Eau Claire notebook before my father. “Papa, do you want to write together?”
We sat down at our marble dining table and wrote for the next 30 minutes—Papa about how he was rescued from a fire when he was an infant and me about my grandfather’s migration from India to Ghana in 1932. Afterwards, we read our work to each other.
In that half hour, I felt closer to my father than ever before.
I hoped he would initiate another writing session with me, but he didn’t. I kept filling up my notebooks anyway. Writing had become my life jacket. It was helping me float above the currents surrounding his inevitable decline.
When Papa passed away, I took on the task of sifting through his personal papers. In his office I was shocked to find a few Eau Claire notebooks filled with a chronicle of his struggle with his cancer.
In an almost illegible scrawl, the first page read:
“My dear daughter said writing my thoughts every morning is a good thing to do. It opens up the creative impulses in you … So I have started … ”
Writing, I discovered, had also been my father’s buoy when the ocean seemed to be carrying his spirit away.
I flipped to his last entry. Undated, it was written a few weeks before his death:
“It’s 5:30 pm but it’s already dark outside. Fall is here and winter not too far away. Seems the same way with my life. I am in the fall of my life and winter seems to be around the corner. I wonder if it will be a short winter. …”
It was a short winter. That same year, Papa passed away the day after Thanksgiving.
I am my father’s daughter in more ways than one. Whenever a shadow falls upon my day, I imagine him reaching for his pen during the autumn of his life. That image inspires me to pull out my own notebook and get my pen moving. Writing, I know, will always be my savior and my friend.
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