Filling The Tartan Notebook
Updated: Aug 27, 2022
Now that I have discovered this writing thing, the obvious project to do would be to write a memoir. And if you know me, you know that my father would make the perfect subject for said memoir. Loud, controversial, opinionated, and inspiring, he presented as gregarious bordering on belligerent. He would most definitely make for exciting reading.
The thing is, I'm not sure I'm ready to tear open my heart and bleed onto the keys, as it were. I love fiction because you can pull from places as you want to, ignoring the ones you wish to stay protected. Non-fiction terrifies me because there is nowhere to hide. The truth is there and it's your job as a writer to tell it honestly. My father died when I was 21, and got sick when I was 12. So basically the first half of my life was spent with a slowly dying parent.
Now, I have far moved on past the tears and shying away from memories that bubble up. The pain of loss truly does get less with time. That is why the idea of tearing it back open seems something akin to having another baby in my 40's. No thanks is the short answer.
I do know that his story needs to be told, and telling it through the eyes of his youngest daughter would be, I believe, touching and heartfelt. So I have decided to start writing down little memories as they come to me with the hopes that someday I will be ready to sit down and tear that shit open. I keep them in a tiny perfect tartan notebook I got for a Christmas gift. It was too perfect for rambling scribblings of the madness that is my mind, so I knew that "Dad" memories saved up for later would be the perfect fit.
One particular memory came up and I wanted to share it.
A little background. My dad was a high school US History teacher. He was controversial and loved to tease his students kind of mercilessly. He pushed them to think deeper and wider and question everything. Not exactly welcome by parents who don't want their kids exposed to a KKK application (yes, they are still around, and yes history matters).
About 8 years after he passed, I decided to run a marathon in his memory. It was for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society and I had to raise money to participate. Sidenote- I did it. I almost laid down on the road and cried. I finished. Bucket list checked. Never again. Anyhow...
I was back living in my tiny hamlet where the owners of the stores were the kids of the previous owners and all of them probably had my dad for a teacher. So I went around asking for donations. As soon as I mentioned my dad, people frequently lit up and offered at least a few dollars. I stopped at a Danish chocolate shop with an ice cream counter. It's darling and sweet and to my surprise as I approached the red and white nostalgia-laden soda fountain-esque counter, there was an unwashed, slightly scary man hunched over a cup of black coffee. He had a grey sweatshirt with the hood over his head, adorned with the kind of scowl that makes you walk out to your car with your keys between your knuckles. The dichotomy of this whole scene was strange and I am sorry to admit that I stepped away from him as I spoke to the owner.
It's at this point in the story that I should mention, my dad once told me precisely 4 of his students over the years had turned out to be murderers. Every one of them sat angry in the back of the class, hood over their scowl, plotting some sort of revenge to someone in their life. He told me he was never scared that they would come back for teasing him because he was certain he was the only one that ever paid any attention to them. The teasing meant someone cared that they existed.
So OF COURSE I'm wondering if this is possibly going to be number 5 in the line of scary dudes that ended up being killers. I said my pitch, asking for money and telling the owner that I was running in memory of my father, Iain McPherson. This man looked up from his coffee at the mention. Uh-oh.
When the owner of the chocolate shop told me that she truly wanted to help but that she had already donated to several others that month, I smiled and politely went on my way. I got in my car and heard a loud bang on my window. Oh shit. Oh shit. It was the angry dude, still with his hood covering as much of his face as possible. So me being the untrusting girl that I am, roll down the window like 2 inches. I know I'm being an asshole but I can't help it. This guy might want revenge for my loud, teasing, controversial father. He reaches through the 2 inch opening, just large enough for his two fingers and in between them rests a $100 bill.
Um, what? He tells me to take it. I say, really? He pushes it in farther and says, "This is for Iain."
I roll the window all the way down and as he walks off, I yell, "Thank you! who are you??" Without looking back he says, "It doesn't matter."
Now, to this day I have no idea who that guy was. I never saw him again. But I can tell you that that moment made me profoundly proud that I hail from the loud, gregarious, controversial man that was Iain McPherson.
More to come someday. I've got a perfect little tartan book to fill with memories first.