What had I done wrong, I wondered, and slunk away.
Now I'm beginning to see how what I wrote startled her.
- I had re-named, for an audience, the man she had called Dad and I had called Grandpa.
- In doing this I had asserted my difference from her. Mom did not at that time perceive us kids as differing from her in any important way. I was the eldest and my job was to break such news ("Mom, we're different from you") and absorb the response.
- In writing "Grandpa Pongratz" I had used the power to name. Such power in the hands of an eight-year-old--anybody would freak out.
- By writing, I had transplanted Grandpa from our entirely private family hothouse and placed him in the light normally reserved for public figures.
- Words on paper strike much harder than information conveyed verbally.
- Until that moment her father had not existed on paper, in prose, independently of his own hand.
Reminded of this by seeing Indian Paintbrushes growing in the roadside today, and remembering that long-ago car trip, on which Mom told me the name of those orange flowers.
More on this later...