Monday, May 19, 2008

Advice from My Grandfather

My grandfather, a columnist, is dying.

He was rather a well known public personality in my hometown, so there's a good deal of public reaction, well-wishing, and remembrance. And the circumstances are prolonging the phenomenon; since he is very strong and extremely stubborn man, he is not going quickly, despite having been able to receive no food or drink for seven days now.

My grandfather, a Mark Twain-like figure among the locals, is a man of stories; to him, life is not just a thing to be done, but a thing to be talked about. He understands the power of narrative and helped many people -- generations, really -- of my fellow Yorkers realize that life has a story to tell, at every level, every day.

It's an odd situation to be the relative of a dying or recently dead public figure, even just a local one. There are so many people who feel they know your relative so well from his public work. But usually they don't.

The writer, the actor, the performer; they are edited by themselves and others, and what the public sees is a just a version of them. Be wary of assuming that you know what someone really thinks and feels from what they write -- bloggers included. I've been amazed at some of things I've "discovered" about myself based on the perceptions of readers. For any given subject X, various readers decided that I love X, I hate X, I'm a merciless critic of X, I'm a nostalgic supporter of X, I'm deadly serious about X, I find X absurd and hilarious, I know nothing about X, I'm an X-pert, or I don't deserve to live in a world that has X in it.

My advice on reading either blogs or comics is relax and enjoy, if you can; your favorite writers are probably more interested in telling a good story than in fitting into your idea of what their continuity is. Don't waste time trying to figure out what I -- or any other writer -- "really thinks" about something. As my grandfather always used to say, "It's just a column; it's just another story."


Sea-of-Green said...

Beautifully written.

It's true that people assume they know a lot about writers based on what they write. It's also true that writers are writers because they can't help writing.

The greatest achievement of any writer is to enrich the life of someone else, and your grandfather succeeded better than most. Blogs are columns, in a way, and in a way you're contributing to your grandfather's legacy.

Best wishes to you and your family.

Diamondrock said...

Thanks for writing this. It's the sort of thing that people need to be reminded of every once in a while.

And for what it's worth, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family...

SallyP said...

It may be just a column, Scipio, but it is a damned well-written column, and for that I thank you.

I'm so sorry to hear about your Grandfather.

Anonymous said...

Scipio, it goes without saying that you have all my support at this time, as always. But I won't go without saying it.

And this column of yours is a daily source of pleasure to many, many folks; no small feat in today's world.

Anonymous said...

My sincere condolences are extended to you and your family.

I'm sure many of your readers (myself included) are familiar with the sting of losing a beloved grandparent.

And it does seem fitting and comforting that the good man's grandson has become a well-known and respected columinst/blogger in his own right...

-Citizen Scribbler

Maxo said...

I just read your post, and the column in the newspaper, and it sounds as if Mr. Hubley was a good man and a hell of a writer. It's quite an example of what can define a life of accomplishment, and I'd like to say thanks for sharing it with us.

I'm very, very sorry for the difficult time you and your family are going through, and I hope you can find some small comfort in the memories you built with your grandfather.

Rob S. said...

Best wishes to you and your family in this difficult time. He sounds like quite a guy.

Gus Casals said...

We can´t help feeling somewhat propietary of the stuff that touches us in some way. It´s an odd mass phenomenom, and one that has had, over the years, often extremely negative outcomes.

On the other hand, odd and unconfortable as it may be, soemtimes we feel close enough to these anonymous creatures writting stuff, that we get happy or sad for them, or feel the need of sending condolences and support.

I'm a guy who lives a continent away, who doesn't even share your mother tongue, and yet your writting has affected me in some way, and I cannot help to think that I "got" something from you. And that is enough to also send you sympathies in this difficult time.

Anonymous said...

Best wishes to you and your family, Scipio.

Anonymous said...

I, too, have had my life enlarged by your blog. I don't know you or even think I do but you're wonderful enough in print to wish I did. God bless you and your family and I'll send up prayers for your grandfather.


Scipio said...

Thank you, all.

Martin Gray said...

I'm sorry, too, to hear about your grandfather - he sounds inspirational.

And I bet he's very proud of you.