I learned to read at the same time as my dad. After his stroke at 45, he lost language and use of the right side of his body. Suddenly, he was no longer a charismatic venture capitalist in the first wave of the Silicon Valley tech revolution. My father went from the forefront of tech boom to someone who saw the internet and his former partners pass him by. Instead, we became founders of speech. Every time we created a sentence, we created a world.
We built a universe together of glossy Seusses and purple flashcards. My sticky fingers and his stiff arm opened lacquer covers as we tried together to stack the slippery building blocks of language, the ones that kept slipping. Sometimes they would hold together long enough for him to say what he had been trying to for weeks.
I became part of this process of grasping for unattainable expression, participating in the search with him, riffing on his words in the hunt for the buried one. I am gripped by the way in which language tries—and the way in which language fails. The palpable dramatic tension in that disparity of almost attainment—almost perfect emotional mimesis—if we can only find the word.
As I learned to construct language, I became intimately familiar with its successes and failures, with how it is deconstructed, how it is destroyed. I saw language emerge—sprung forth through fricatives and glides. I learned the power of spoken language. Language even more beautiful and powerful as a deconstruction.
I saw that language always bears within it creative potential. It was the key to regaining our lives and selves after they were so profoundly altered. Language was the means of transforming an environment where nothing could hold onto meaning into one where objects and ideas could be identified and therefore became real. They stayed real for as long as that identification lasted.
We used language to build the world around us. A world where the American Dream is feverishly pursued and unwillingly abandoned. Where the human spirit doesn’t shrink from change but creates and recreates and creates again.
As a writer, I want to give voice to the experiences of those who are quietly fighting to maintain/regain their lives and selves amongst exogenous change. With my father, speech is still an event, distinctive and precarious in constant question of the outcome. My father lives every day – paralyzed and joyous – like he is going to die tomorrow. I keep writing to try to capture a fraction of that immediacy.