She had all the attributes of a great character. She was capable of madness, like the affair with her land, but she also possessed a great lucidity. She embodied those contradictions that make for great characters, like when she nearly died upon learning that I enrolled in the Communist Party. But she is not the main hero of my body of work, nor the most permanent. No, I am the most permanent. Writing is to write for oneself… We separate ourselves from people by writing.”
-Marguerite Duras on her mother in
Me & Other Writing
A story about my maternal line ~~~ This is my great grandmother Martha Gayer. My mother’s mother’s mother. She died in 2008 at the age of 99, but I didn’t know she was alive at the time or when she died. I was never introduced to her. She lived alone in a psych ward in Iowa, estranged from most of the family. My grandmother hasn’t said much about her or anything to me. All I was told is that she was mad. /// Martha’s mother, Alvina Tanck, migrated alone from Dägeling to Iowa in 1907 in her 20s. Alvina was born from the rape of her mother—the rapist: her mother’s brother-in-law, one of my grandfathers— and deemed ‘illegitimate’ from birth. The farm in Iowa was her fresh start. She had nine children, including Martha. /// I wish I met her. But I can kinda see her smirk on my face.
But to look from the stony plain along the road which led one to that place is not at all the same thing as walking on the road; the perspective, to say the very least, changes only with the journey; only when the road has, all abruptly and treacherously, and with an absoluteness that permits no argument, turned or dropped or risen is one able to see all that one could not have seen from any other place.”
Go Tell It on the Mountain