Richard Ford remembers his parents

Richard Ford writes that without faith there is only literature and other peoples’ stories to keep us company, or something to that effect. An only child (like John Updike and Richard Wilbur, of the previous post), Ford remembers his parents in this two-part memoir. The book is a quiet, beautiful, understated eulogy of the author’s childhood family of three.

Ford paints a picture of an absent, traveling-salesman father who did his son no harm. He paints a fuller, still stylized, picture of his mother: a woman who loved her husband, and who entered into a partnership of mutual respect and love with her son after his father died young, of a heart attack.

Without siblings to contradict him, and without children of his own to blur childhood memories, Ford frames consistent and finely veiled profiles of his parents.

Memories of the dead–washed, preserved and blessed– are recorded to keep the author’s family of three together and famous. Ford writes to tell this story of his life with his parents to us, his admiring readers, but mainly he must have written this book to keep memories alive for himself. Readers will be persuaded by the memory-presentation, weighted as it is to framed parental love, the memory of which can save a lonely child from the cruel carelessness of time.

To write a memoir and to consider the importance of another human being is to try to credit what might otherwise go unremarked-partly by acknowledging that mysteries lie within us all, and by identifying within those mysteries, virtues. p. 51

I can recognize now that life is short and has inadequacies that once again it requires crucial avoidances as fillings-in to be acceptable. Most everything but love goes away. p. 66

There was a life full of small events. I have remembered more than I do now. I’ve written down memories, disguised salient events into novels, told stories again and again to keep them within my reach. But pieces stand for the whole well enough. Though each must make a difference to me or I wouldn’t remember them so well.  p. 108

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