4 months ago


Selected Writings & Artwork by Harriett Copeland Lillard

Epilogue Isolation

Epilogue Isolation 41

A Journey not Measured in Miles - Epilogue Now that the story is “finished” in my incomplete way, the dogs of anxiety hound me. Does it say anything? I have re-read it, edited it, rearranged it, corrected it, all and more at least a hundred times. I should have changed the names to protect the innocent, so to speak, but somehow the characters did not ring true without their real names. My father and Rash are both long dead, but my mother will undoubtedly outlive us all. I suppose if I should ever try to get it published, I will have to do some fictionalizing in that respect, if for nothing more than to protect my mother’s overblown sense of morality and self-righteousness. God! What a burden that has been all my life. I suppose I will never be free of it until she dies. I know that sounds harsh, but it is a fact in the majority of mother-daughter relationships. The intensity there is so great, the sense of identity and extension so strong that daughters have a difficult time escaping into themselves. The Cinderella Complex deals with this in detail. It AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA should be basic reading for men who truly care about the women in their lives, whether they be sisters, daughters, wives, lovers or mothers themselves. The story is about isolation. I did not start out with this as a theme, but it evolved, as each character emerged from the blank page and was found there trapped within his or her solitary confinement. Isolation carries with it a somewhat negative connotation as opposed to aloneness, which is more a matter of positive choice rather than helpless circumstance. Neither is isolation the same as loneliness, as that can be solved by individual effort to become involved with other people. The woman who lives in the villa above the Mediterranean is alone, but not lonely or isolated. Isolation is a feeling of being cut-off, apart, empty, powerless. It is a characteristic that breeds acute sensitivity to yourself, to others, to your environment. As a child, I did not have the word, but I had the feeling. I do not remember ever being carefree in the child-like sense. Neither do I remember having fun or feeling at ease or relaxed. Everything was an experience of excruciating intensity, outlined, contoured, interiorized, felt. But always there was the other me, the one who sat and observed, who kept me from dying of the pain I often felt. It was a strange childhood. Full of eclectic and often confusing signals from those around me. I have no idea whether this story even vaguely touches on any of that. It is too close to me. Perhaps I lack the powers of elucidation that I need to make it understood fully. This is not a factual account of what happened in 1949. Some events were telescoped, others zoomed in, still others made up or changed. It is a factual account of what Joan Didion calls “how it felt to be me.” In retrospect, I know now that one reason for my own feelings of isolation was that all the people I loved and admired were also isolated individuals. My mother’s desperation at being trapped in a loveless marriage, my father’s inability to take control of his life, Rash’s alcoholism—no one seemed to have a grip on life. Rash came the closest, despite his alcoholism and because of his tremendous intellectual prowess and his understanding of and feeling for the human condition. Perhaps that is the reason he has stayed with me all these years and why I have used him here as the pivotal character around whom we all orbited in some way. He touched us all, and his questions, his quest, live on long past the grave in the mind of a little girl, now grown, who was a silent and unnoticed observer of his wit and intelligence. I remember feeling real grief when I heard that he was dead. I couldn’t bear to think of him without breath, without voice, without life. I couldn’t have been more than eight or nine. Somehow he will always be the yardstick by which I measure all men. I’m sure I have romanticized him over 42