Book and a birthday

Bluebird-Bird-books-Oil-PaintingI read the first two stories in Alice Munro’s Dear Life today. She’s the Canadian winner of the Nobel for literature, so of course I wanted to try her again. She’s our first ever winner for literature I believe. I’ve tried to read her before and found the stories readable but depressing. But these two stories I enjoyed. The first is more optimistic, so I liked it, the second sad with a creepy male character whom the protagonist loves, so I didn’t like it much, but was still OK with reading. I’m very predictable – I want good things to happen to sympathetic main characters.

I’m happy I’m able to enjoy writing that pretty much the whole world says is excellent. It’s maybe shallow to want to be with the crowd, but I hate to be missing greatness. Though there are lots of books that I can tell are very good literature, but which I do not enjoy. I’m hoping Alice Munro is going to move out of that category for me. Maybe I’m maturing.

I’ve been staying at home a lot this week. I felt I was coming down with something, but I’ve been popping a drugstore ginseng remedy that I think kind of helps, and have been sleeping a lot. I’ve been practicing trying to be relaxed at home. I think I’m often tense and on edge for no great reason, so I’m counter-acting that with some belly breathing and calming statements. I’m just at home, there’s no reason to be tense and worried, I can relax.

I attended a family event on Saturday – my father’s 80 birthday, an event in a rented hall at the university. A lot of his former students came, and some family friends. There were speeches about what a great teacher and mentor he was. I was uncomfortable – I’d had such a different experience of him as a child.

One good thing was I had good clothes to wear. I’d recently bought a business jacket for work, with a newish white shirt and black skirt, so at least I looked like a professional. My fear was I’d still look like the badly dressed kid I was. The clothes gave me some confidence.

I did skip the weekday actual birthday day dinner with my parents. I felt guilty, but enough is enough. It makes me sad to see them.

It’s tough when parents are getting older, and if things were good, I should be supporting them, as they supported me as a child. They did do all the conventional things for me – lessons, food, shelter, outings, travel. All these things that families do for their children. I’m grateful for that. Once I had my own son, I did realize that these things aren’t necessarily easy to do.

But here I am, in parts. That’s at least half way down to my parents.

So I stay away mostly, and show up to big occasions. They don’t ask what’s wrong. I feel guilty, but can’t bear to see them any more than I do.

Art: Got Book Worms? Camille Engel

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8 comments
  1. I’m also in the middle of a Alice Munro book, her short story collection “Runaway”. I’m finding it to be a bit hit and miss. She has great characters and solid stories, but they have been really slow paced. I have a few more of her books on my TBR shelf and admittedly, I may hold off. Two in a row might be too much Monroe!

    • Ellen said:

      They’re definitely not adventure stories. I am not finding them slow paced this time around, but the subjects are definitely shades of feeling, and sometimes I feel I’m missing the significance of some scenes. Such a small canvas. I think I find the sadness in the stories hard to take, not being cheerful myself to begin with. But the first story was not sad, so I am encouraged. 🙂 Thanks for being a fellow reader and commenting Karen!

      • I’m a fairly upbeat person, but I was affected by the melancholy tone of the stories. I can only read one a day, because they are such downers!

        • Ellen said:

          One a day is the trick for me too.

  2. Cat said:

    Hi Ellen. I enjoyed reading your post. I feel exactly the same about my parents who are late 70’s and not in the best of health/mobility. I did almost make the mistake of returning to Scotland to be near to them, but think it’s better to keep my 500 mile distance. It can make us feel guilty for not wanting to spend any more time with them, but perhaps that may change as we heal through therapy, eh? I usually remind myself that they are responsible for creating their own relationships with their children…. and perhaps that didn’t go too well…

    • Ellen said:

      Hi Cat, It’s a real problem. I’m sorry you have it also, and I’m glad you didn’t return to live near them. I feel I need some middle ground, that isn’t too damaging to me but still gives me some contact. I’m not sure therapy will help me with this problem. Thanks for commenting.

      • Cat said:

        Well, my own experience is that finding a middle ground is not easy, especially if, like me, you would rather not see them at all. Texting is okay and I will tolerate a phone call by being nice and polite….anything else just doesn’t wear well. It’s complex and something I ruminate about regularly.

        • Ellen said:

          Yes, it’s not easy. I’ve settled on a kind of superficial, see you once in a while at occasions, kind of relationship. The whole thing feels bad and makes me uneasy, but I don’t see what I could do that would be better. We are having a very similar experience.

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