Journalcalling • May 9, 2020
A journal is a favorable place to pose questions and try to answer them. Here are some of the ones I’ve asked and answered in writing over the years.
Q: Should I leave my 13-year career as a newspaper reporter and become an English teacher?
Q: Should I ask Peter to marry me even though I swore I would never get hitched again?
Q: How will I have a relationship with my first grandchild when she lives 2,000 miles away?
Q: Why would I join a women’s group?
Q: Could I quit drinking?
Q: Should we start remodeling our little, old house even though we may not have enough money to see the project through?
Q: Will I ever hike a 4,000-foot mountain again?
Q: Do I need counseling?
Q: How can I learn to meditate regularly?
Q: What if everyone I love doesn’t survive COVID-19?
Q: What will life be like on the other side of this world health crisis?
Q: When should I retire from teaching?
Q: Can I start my own business teaching journal writing?
Q: How can I pull together more memories of my dad?
A: He died of lung cancer just before my 13th birthday but I’ve learned that I can ask myself for clear memories of him and then keep them by writing them down. I can set an intention, sit quietly and activate my unconscious mind and see what surfaces. Though it may sound odd, I can even dialogue with him, and yes, write it all down.
It’s a sweet little gift I can give to myself.
One of my favorite times was the girls against the boys softball games in the street in front of our house. My dad was the only adult in the neighborhood who played, and he was always on our team. Did he pitch? Maybe, I’m not sure. But when he smacked the ball halfway down Humiston Avenue, he would run around the bases with his long strides teasing and faking out the boys as they hopelessly tried to tag him out as we girls screamed our approval. The girls, in our hand-sewn, felt-lettered uniform shirts, were unbeatable and the games usually ended with my brother crying. My dad waved us off as we taunted them. “Ball babies!”
A big kid at heart, my dad’s appeal was well-known, and sometimes neighborhood kids would show up at our door and ask if Mr. Doyle could come out and play.
I have also conjured the family road trips. My two brothers and I were awakened in the early morning darkness and carried one-by-one out to the Ford Fairlane in my dad’s arms. He placed us gently in the back seat where we curled up on a crib mattress laid across it. The old, metal Coleman cooler was wedged on the floor underneath it, filled with lemonade in a pitcher, fruit, sandwiches and mom’s brownies for the rest stops along the way. When the sun rose, we were a family of five belting out, “This Land is Your Land,” and playing word games like GHOST. That’s right a word can’t end with you or you get a letter. This must have inspired my love of spelling and I was proud to become a bee champion in elementary school.
There were also the Sunday morning trips — just dad and me — to the office in New Haven where he worked as an assistant manager at a mortgage company. We would skip church so he could catch up on his work.
The streets of the city were deserted as we wheeled downtown in his boxy green car with the breeze blowing through the windows. What was the conversation? I’m sure there was something other than, “Don’t tell your mother.”
Once inside, he sat in an impressive glassed-in office that overlooked rows of empty data processing stations. I would sit at one, pretending I was an office worker as I scribbled on a stack of punch cards and played with his magnetic paper clip dispenser.
That thrilling feeling of being a bit of a delinquent was probably born in me then. I accepted the bribe of a bag of cheese popcorn — the kind with the yellow plastic window that made it look cheesier. My dad’s big, brown eyes folded in a quick wink for me was irresistible.
We stopped at the church on the way home so I could bolt inside and grab the bulletin — proof that we had been at Mass. Years later, my younger brother and I pulled the same ploy on our way home from joyriding in mom’s car at the beach. Our dad was dead by then, and we were definitely on our way to becoming minor offenders.