Excerpt from On Writing and God by Mary Guterson


The following essay appears in our January 2014 digital issue. Read the rest of Mary’s story and the entire issue.

1. “Be a person on whom nothing is lost.” This is what writers are told. And that is the state of mind in which I used to love, without effort. That’s the part that kills me. Without effort.

2. I am letting things get lost now. I am a person on whom most everything is lost.
There is no writing, no reading.
I am watching my father grow leaner by the hour, the skin of his face sagging. He is nearly all teeth now. I am watching my mother watching my father. I am listening
to my father not talking. I am waiting to hear him not breathing. In this way, I am released from the dual life I used to live, the writer and me.
There is only him, my mother, the air, the root beer he suddenly drinks, the glasses now in his pocket, now not. The endless trips to the bathroom where nothing happens.
And then nothing happens again.
There is nothing to believe in.

3. My brother arrives, the oldest one. He prays for my father, a prayer shawl around his
shoulders, a hat on his head. My older brothers are already there. We all walk around the house, talking to whatever God we do or don’t believe in, talking to each other,
not talking at all, while my father lies under the covers, not sleeping, not awake. He’s in between. It’s real and it’s not real. I lean down and whisper sentences into his ear.
I tell him I love him, that I have always adored him, that he was an amazing father, that I’m going to miss him terribly.
I say, I don’t know where you are going but I hope it’s a beautiful journey.

4. I am in awe of my father.

Mary GutersonMARY GUTERSON is the author of the novels We Are all Fine Here (Putnam, 2005) and Gone to the Dogs (St. Martin’s, 2009). Her fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines as well as on public radio.

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