Chapter One


Father HS Yearbook

IN the autumn of 1950 George McPherson Hayes, Jr. returned home early from a business trip to Chicago, suffering from what was thought to be a bad case of the flu. The doctor told him not to worry, to take plenty of fluids, but the next morning he fell to the floor while trying to climb out of bed and was unable to pick himself up again. Just before the ambulance attendants wheeled my father out the door I saw him for what turned out to be the last time. He didn’t say anything. And yet the look he gave me still burns eloquently in my mind. I was only six years old. But suddenly I found myself towering above the uncharacteristically still body of my father. He was buckled and strapped into a stretcher, his arms and body stiff and shrouded by a navy blue blanket tucked tightly up to his chin. He looked up at me for a long quiet moment. Those trapped blue eyes which said nothing said more to me than a six year old is ready to hear.

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Plug the search term “autobiography” into Google and you will get more than 45 million results in half a second. Given such popularity it is difficult to argue that vanity is not a common denominator amongst those who write about themselves.

Ofttimes a memoir is a thinly-disguised attempt to salvage a botched life, to reassemble scattered elements and make them come out right this time. The stated goal may be to recount the past but the deeper motivation is no less than a personal theodicy. The nice thing is that in the final chapter, if we so choose, we can absolve ourselves of our sins.

No doubt my memoir as much as anyone else’s is fueled by self-interest. But be it known that my intent is to skimp on mundane facts except as necessary context for revealing character. Cynicism and apologetics aside, at its best witnessing about ourselves enriches our common cultural heritage. If there is a universal memory somewhere high in the sky, the faith of the autobiographer is that the triumphs and failures of even the least of us merit being preserved, too.

Here, then, is the inaugural post to my new autobiographical project. You might wish to begin with the “Preface” and then gravitate via the drop down menu to the chapters, which will be posted as they are completed.

Comments are encouraged and in particular I would be grateful to be notified of any writing errors you may spot.