On details, December and finding the right words

Get the name of the dog. This time, though, it wasn’t the name of the dog but a pair of earrings, rainbow earrings, gay pride earrings, that made the story. That made me cry — for the San Bernardino shooting victims, for a childhood friend’s family, for a coworker who had committed suicide and finally, for the words I still can’t find.

“Get the name of the dog.” That was code for, “Details make the story,” per my beloved Drake University journalism professor Rick Tapscott. Three days after the two-year anniversary of his sudden passing, it was a stunningly written, heart-wrenching LA Times story on the San Bernardino shooting that twisted the words on the screen as I sat at my cubicle, their swirls and swoops spinning in a teary-eyed kaleidoscope.

Amid the blur, I realized how hard it is sometimes to simply exist. The first week in December remains trying for me, forever tinted by Rick’s passing and, six days later, the tragic loss of a childhood friend’s beloved older brother, then 24 years old. There is at once nothing and everything to say, the pages of journal swallowed by page-long paragraphs.

Rick would go crazy if he saw the size of this paragraph, I think to myself, but he’d honor the editing process, too, permitting my rambling throughts to, as Anne Lammott would say, “romp” across the page.

The editing process confounds me during the time, one ravaged by mass shootings, anti-Muslim rhetoric, remembering loved ones gone and comforting those to whom they were closest. I want to rant and ramble and romp. At the other extreme, I’m tempted to be silent, knowing full well that my words — any of them, all of them — will never, ever be enough.

That’s why the LA Times piece by Alan Zarembo struck me. It was raw and beautiful, well written and painstakingly edited to capture the nuance of loss. Though I cry every time I read the story, it provided comfort as I wrote a card to my childhood friend, as I read and re-read recent journal entries, highlighting fragments of language and emotion to form this post.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to find all the words I’m looking for, but this week of the year always reminds me that there’s clarity in the details. The lone tear that falls in the store when I find the right card for my friend. The folded “Rick’s Rules” reference guide I found in an old college folder this past week. The single sentence of highlighted text among a pages-long journal entry, the shaky entrance into my lifelong quest to find the right words.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *