Kim Stafford, the son of famed Oregon poet, William Stafford, spent 24 years trying to write one story, but he could never quite do it — until this year. It’s the story of his brother, Bret’s, suicide, told memory-by-memory in his newly published book 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do: How My Brother Disappeared. Here’s an excerpt:
After my brother died, I would talk about him very early in a conversation with anyone I met. I remember akward dates, where my abrupt mention of my brother’s suicide stopped the conversation cold. One poor woman wept. Our coffee grew cold, and the date was at an end. It was as if I could not proceed on any basis except full disclosure, as I saw it, feeling a clumsy loyalty to my brother’s sorrow beyond care for the person across the table from me.
Stafford admits that he has felt a certain amount of guilt for his brother’s death. He says he was blind to the pain Bret was dealing with. As he puts it he was just “coasting along on the happiness of their childhood.” Finally writing the memories down has helped Stafford move on. The last line of the book reads
Out of love for him, for myself, and for everyone, now I have to let his story go.
Has someone close to you committed — or attempted to commit — suicide? How does their story stay with you? How do you tell it? Have you been able to let his or her story go?
Editor’s Note: Kim Stafford was on our show last year talking about failure. He’ll also be on Oregon Art Beat Thursday night at 8:00 p.m. on OPB TV, and you can see him read in person at Powell’s Books on the 29th.
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OPB | Feb. 22, 2017