“One of the many challenges I faced in writing “Possess Stone Wall” was freeing, as best as I could, my father from the fabled father-son prism. Doing this required a kind of detaching of myself from myself. Odd, for I believe that so much of writing a personal essay is reflectively mining my subconscious and becoming engulfed by feelings of deep and often melancholic nostalgia. My writing here feels distanced to a degree, almost as if the experiences are those of some other person, narrated from a close-third perspective.
“Family members consider my work, and this piece in particular, to be surprisingly “dark.” My theory is that family gives the benefit of the doubt, but they don’t comfortably view their son (or brother) in this way: “dark” and absorbed and burdened by thought. By the same token, this is true for me when I write about my father. While my family hesitates to view me as contemplative and dark, I likewise am unable to see fully my father’s profound internal darkness. I believe it is exceedingly challenging to write with any measure of true clarity about the imperfect family or its imperfect members, for we fear what they’ll think of our deeply personal depictions, and we worry about presenting family in a light that is anything less than sunny, or—as in this essay—one mere pinch away from being entirely snuffed out.
“I admit I’m still confused as to how I came to write this piece, though I know that putting myself in the passenger’s seat of my experiences was the first step. Writing nonfiction offers me this rare opportunity: to share a voice from within the human continuum, and to come to terms with things—chaotic, messy and unsettling as they are.”
Jeff Wasserboehr lives in western Massachusetts. His work can be found in Passages North, the Massachusetts Review, New South and the Midwest Quarterly, among others. He is wrapping up his MFA degree at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst where he teaches undergraduate courses in creative writing and works at the Massachusetts Review.