Family and Relationships
A Tribute To Brian Doyle
You believed that everything is a form of prayer, including laughter, including tears. Yes, you were a reverential man, but you weren’t stiff or boring or preachy or dour. Your essays were both concise — often just a page in length — and lush, your sentences as intricate and twisty as plants in a terrarium. You combined prose and poem (and prayer, you said) to bear witness to the miracles around us.
Next door, in a run-down daiquiri-pink house with bedsheets instead of curtains on the windows, lived Whitey Carr, who loved to pound me every Sunday with his tiny fists. My mother said I had to feel sorry for Whitey because he’d lost his mom, and his brother, Raja, had come back crazy from the war.
There are many ways of not knowing, not seeing, and there are equally many ways of knowing, of coming to know deep in your body, embodying knowledge the way my ancestors embodied culture, the way the earth embodies language and spiritual belief and insult. Or maybe what I want to say is that it takes many ways of knowing to overcome your brain’s many refusals. To admit you know a thing like cancer resides — is seizing control — inside your body.
Six years after my father left us, in the summer of 1977, my mother, my younger brother, and I were living in a single-wide trailer in the desert of Wildomar, California. My mother’s sister Anne and Anne’s husband, Gerick, lived with their boys in a double-wide on the same property, ten acres of scrubland my wealthy grandparents had bought as an investment. We must have resembled squatters, but we were there legally. I was ten and would enter the fifth grade that fall.