August 2, 2007

Past imperfect

Originally uploaded by Citizen Rob.
It's been a strange week in RobLand.

My legal review with the very nice attorney representing my publisher went well, although it ended up taking five hours. I'm not sure who to thank, James Frey or my own snotty writing or just common sense, but yes, five whole earth hours that I will never get back.

They weren't wasted hours, either. I defended a great many statements, changed many of them slightly, and rewrote a few. What I have left is, hopefully, clean and fresh and litigation-resistant.

It's been a week for revisiting the past, in some ways. In the process of having the book vetted, a member of Julie's family got upset about a story that was in the book, one that was important to the story but admittedly didn't reflect very well on him. The attorney cleared the story, but in the end I changed it, although I regretted it almost immediately. I've never felt like a sellout until now. Julie's been supportive of this book, however, so I figured I owed her a little family peace in return. Still, it bothered me when I did it, and it bothers me still. I shall get over it.

I received two other pieces of news this week that left me feeling... strange. I spoke to my mother early in the week and discovered that my childhood best friend recently committed suicide. He had been extremely ill with some pretty serious stuff, and I suppose it just got the best of him.

I can't remember the last time I spoke to him, although it might have been twenty years ago. In finding out about his death, I realized that I didn't actually know very much about his life, the one that came after our summers of running around our neighborhood setting off illegal fireworks and sucking down enough Slurpees to, well, give a kid diabetes one day. He'd become an adult and so had I, and our paths only crossed once more, in a brief meeting while I was in college that I barely remember. Now I feel a sort of loss, not just at his death but, I suppose, at his life, too, the one I never knew.

The other piece of disconcerting news I stumbled across was that my ex-wife has a child. This one I'm not sad about; indeed, if having a kid changed her the way having Schuyler changed me, then I'm hopeful she is happier now than she was when we were together. It was still an odd feeling, however, if only because it made me think about that life I had and that path I didn't continue.

Julie and I discussed this recently, how it's hard to think back to the lives we had, both together and even before we met, before Schuyler was born. It's weird, too, because it's not that I don't remember the events of my life back then. It's just that in my memories, or maybe in the feel of my memories, Schuyler is there. When I think back to my wedding, it seems crazy to think that she wasn't sitting there watching. When I remember my father's death almost two decades ago, it's hard to believe that she wasn't there as well, patting my hand comfortingly and speaking softly in soothing Martian.

I suppose, in a way, that she's always been there. I said recently that in my writing before 1999, I was simply waiting for Schuyler to be born, but really, I suppose that applies to my whole life.


Nicole P said...

Wow, Rob. What a week. And what a post this is. Beautiful, really.

:) said...

I love how you say you were just waiting for Schuyler to be born. I know just what you mean. I remember not long after my son was born, my mom said to me in the midst of one of my post partum tearfests of joy/exhaustion/love/overwhelmed with everything moment "Just think, he's always been a little piece of you." I like to think of it that way too. She probably doesn't even remember saying it, but its one of those things that I'll always keep with me.

Matilda said...

Now I feel a sort of loss, not just at his death but, I suppose, at his life, too, the one I never knew.

Sorry about the weird week, in general. And in particular about the news of your friend's death. A cousin of mine, one that I hadn't seen or even any news of since I was a very small kid, was killed in Iraq a while back. I won't say it's worse when that happens, when there's suddenly no possibility that the thread will be picked up again, than when you lose someone currently in your life. Of course it's not worse. But it's weirder, a bad and unexpected death and being left with no formal ways of mourning.

Bernard said...


Sorry for your hard week. But when you're looking back at it, at least Schuyler will be there.

I know what you mean about simply waiting for Schuyler to be born. I can't imagine my life without children. In some ways it was a lot easier. But it was also much emptier.

Linda Ball said...

I don't suppose there is a danger of a Martian taking legal action for the implication that they speak without consonants?

We leave so many people behind from different eras in our lives and it's impossible to keep up and yet spooky to think that we just didn't know their lives after a point.

Oh, and Rob, do you talk about us in your book? By us, I mean your online readers. You've only cast us in the most favorable light I'm sure, huh? Haven't called us slobbering minions or ass monkeys or anything?

Rob said...

I talk about the BBoW fundraiser and I leave out Dave Van and the Jane Book Club. You're all good.

me said...

(careful now, there are some names you shouldn't say aloud on the Internet. Even once.)

Shannon and Carey said...

Wow. I'm crying. Your post about Schuyler always being there is beautiful. To see such love beyond words is a great thing. And on the hearing of your friend passing away I am truly sorry. I was just telling myself this morning.....and I dont know why....."Everyone matters!"..weird but I was talking to myself and I have no idea what brought about this important message.
Hi to the fam,
Your friend in Austin,
Shannon :)

Keri said...

I would feel unnerved if I were to find out my ex had a child too. As for life before Lochlan, it's unimaginable. He's been here on earth for two short years but has always been present all my life. Weird, huh? Glad to know I'm not the only one who feels that way. =D

tiffany ard said...

I've been my son's mom since I was a little kid, struggling with the same kinds of thoughts and fears and worries that he deals with now. It's impossible to process that he wasn't actually here until a few years ago. And really, what the fuck was I doing before then? Biding my time, doing whatever, waiting for the real work and life to begin.

By the way, right now I'm reading Trumpet of the Swan to him. Awesome book -- Have you ever read it? A baby swan is born without a voice, so his father takes great risks and hits to his pride to acquire a trumpet, so that his son can share his inner music with the world. The kid swan goes to school and learns to write on a little chalkboard and... anyway, it could damn near be sub-titled: A father's journey with his wordless swan-kid. Look for it if you haven't read it! Good stuff. :-)

Mary Beth said...

My high school boyfriend recently killed himself. He was a really key person in my life. I continue to feel...flattened...even though we hadn't talked for a few years.

Sara's Sad Alter Ego said...

Sorry, I realize you probably can't answer, but I'm just so curious. What kind of things do lawyers look for before books go to publication? What do they want changed/out? In general terms...

April said...

Wow. Wow. I had to say that twice because I am completely amazed at how your writing has changed in the past year or so. You've gone from confused and angry Believe it or not, your life is incredibly charmed and I actually found myself thinking, "if only my dad had been more like Rob is with Schuyler." If only all dads would find the magic and the beauty and the love in their children, despite the chaos and confusion and scary parts.

Go, Rob!

tiffany ard said...

Ooooooooummm maybe not on the swan book. We're further in now, and it was written in the olden days before it occurred to anyone that it might not be cool to refer to kids as defective. But with a little find and replace maybe?

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