“Remembering Paul” in memoir journal

“Remembering Paul” by Richard Gilbert appears in the current issue—Spring & Summer 2009—of Memoir (and), now moving onto the newstands, memoirandcoverand will be available for several months on line. Set in an extended scene during an October day in which I clean out our barn alone for the first time, the essay explores loss and an unlikely relationship that bridges the gap between an outsider to Appalachia and a local man.

“Now I’m hot, sweating, and I head to the house to change my shirt. It occurs to me that Paul would be removing his twill work jacket at this point. He would dust off a spot and neatly fold the garment, an antique bluish green that matched his creased work trousers. Paul was a neatnik and abhorred messes. “Dirty, filthy things,” Paul would say of groundhogs, blackbirds, and even svelte deer—anything that threatened his orderly lawn and garden or disturbed his peace of mind as he watched his bird feeder.

“I’d hear gunshots from his house across the road as another varmint bit the dust.”


Filed under essay-narrative, memoir, structure

6 responses to ““Remembering Paul” in memoir journal

  1. As I finished reading the last two lines of ‘Remembering Paul’, I was simultaneously laughing and welling up in tears. What a powerful, fascinating and touching tribute, Richard!

    As someone who has done a few chores in your barn and spent time with Jack, I can assure your readers that the many pictures you paint with your words are not romantic, nostalgic exaggerations, but vividly honest and accurate depictions of your farm.

    I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Remembering Paul’ and am going to share it with several of my friends and family members; they still live on the farms I left 35 years ago – but now forget why I left.

  2. Barbara Goodman Shovers

    Again, congrats. Nice to see it in print.

  3. It’s wonderful to see someone I know in the pages of Memoir (and). Last spring, I briefly corresponded with Joan Chapman and found her to be, of course, as elegant as the magazine.

    I thoroughly enjoyed our in-flight discussion of the business side of higher education. Tom Duncan could entertain Jeff Jarvis with his insights. Jarvis, coincidentally, just posted “Hacking education,” which includes an excerpt from his book. His post covers some of the topics of our conversation.

  4. Soon as I starting reading about the tulip poplars & black locusts dropping leaves, I felt death on the page.

    In your memoir about Paul, I began to feel that he was part and parcel of the farm and the idea of the farm, maybe more than you had realized. Maybe his absence has led to a certain decay of your own intent for the project.

    When I returned to read your essay again, I noticed my late night scrawled marginal notes. . . . phases, stages that have their time:
    (1) the boating stage (2)the summer house in the mountains stage (3) the beach house/lake house stage (4) the farming stage (5) the sloughing off stage (6) the hunkering down stage.

    Your weariness bleeds through. So much work to be done, no Paul to help or to talk to — almost as though, without him, the whole enterprise has begun to feel like it’s too much sugar for a dime.

    You offer up a universal plea that has me talking to myself: “Why did I withhold my full affection?” Amen, brother. Why do we all?

  5. Thank you all. Beth, I love your analysis. It is humbling to have a reader read at a deeper level than he consciously wrote. And I am closing the farm chapter, so your intuition is deep and sound. The inner journey interests me more now, or that’s what I need. That and a kayak or some such to return to poking about in nature, nothing too effortful, mind you. Been there . . .

  6. Just received my copy of the magazine in the mail today. So nice to see your fine work in print like this.