I have been engaged, for the past week or so, in parallel tasks, one largely conceptual, the other a mix of conceptual and physical.

The conceptual-centric task: revising my graphic novel script. Deciding what threads need to be connected, what dialog tightened, what scenes simply don’t fit and need to be tossed. And I need to do it efficiently, with a minimum of dithering about the wisdom of the choices I make. And I WANT to do it, because seeing Carla transmogrify my words into comics is so unbelievably cool, and I feel incredibly lucky to be working with her.

But I keep getting distracted by the other task: sorting through my dad’s archives and making decisions about what to keep. I don’t use the word “archives” lightly. I’ve written before about my dad’s background as a rare books librarian. He applied curatorial standards of preservation and organization to everything from the very first exchange of letters between him and my mom to several decades’ worth of his canceled checks.

The tasks, of course, are related. Deciding what to keep, what resonates most strongly. But whereas in the script, I can be ruthless — “oh, I can’t even believe I wrote that, it’s totally messed up, DELETE” — with my paternal archives, I am made of dither.

Should I keep the calendars, preserving the giant notation “PRODUCTION WEEK: no sleep no eat no homework” that I scrawled over the the first week of December 1986?

How about the 11 x 14 portrait of my great-grandmother as a scowling infant?

The array of early twentieth-century photos of unidentified ancestors (in an envelope labeled “To Be Identified”)? The even larger array of photos with careful notations of names and dates?

Dad died of complications from Alzheimers. I know part of my hesitation stems from not wanting to destroy ANY evidence of how brilliantly his mind functioned before the disease. But I also know that he wouldn’t want me to be so paralyzed by contemplating his work that I couldn’t complete my own.

So I’ll put the box of photos aside, shut the door to his office, and open my manuscript.

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