Last summer I wrote what I thought was a short story. It began with an image I had of a family event. In October, starting to type it up, I realized it wasn’t a short story but the beginning of a novel. This has happened to me on several occasions. I began to go deeper into the story, and several characters emerged, one of whom was the husband of the central consciousness, Anna. It also gradually emerged that her husband had had a severe stroke. My father had had several strokes, and I thought as I was writing that was the experience I was building on. My father’s strokes had left me with the dread that I would have one, leaving Bill to look after me.
Now the strange part: it wasn’t me who had the stroke but Bill.
In 1969 I was writing a novel (never published) about a woman who went on a protest walk to NYC. I wrote on a Thursday, and the next Tuesday I was called home because my mother had gone into a coma. A few days later she died. A few weeks later I went back to the novel and read what I had written on that Thursday: “When she was sixteen, her mother died.” I was troubled. Something similar has happened a number of times, although not quite so troubling. I wrote about a mother and father who were sitting in the “quiet room” of the emergency ward, where they put people whose loved one is in dire straits. Their son had had an accident. Once when I had been in the emergency ward with one of the kids for a minor reason, I had glimpsed the quiet room and saw a couple in it so I knew what it looked like. A few months after I wrote about the quiet room, Bill and I were sitting in the quiet room. Our son had been bitten in the face by a dog.
One of the main characters in my first published novel keeps more and more complicated lists. She makes lists of her different lists. Her daughter gives her nicely bound black books to keep the lists in, and they comprise a kind of family history. My mother kept lists but not as elaborate. A few years ago I realized I was keeping lists of lists, a book in which I listed where other lists were kept, like my character. And two years ago I bought a black book in which I write everything down so that I won’t forget and only later did I think of the black books of Flora’s mother.
It’s all kind of spooky.