Over the past year I've been working steadily on WITNESS, my memoir, and I've tried and discarded a large number of different opening paragraphs. Tell me what you think of these:
My father died on a sunny Monday morning in mid-August, 2005, at his home in Austintown, Ohio. He was 89.
When I read his obituary I felt no emotion whatever, as if it were just a stock market report, or a weather forecast. In the days and weeks that followed, my continued non-reaction seemed peculiar. I thought something must be wrong with me. I ought to be feeling something, one way or another, like regret and sadness, or gratitude and elation. Anything. But I didn’t.
Deep in my psyche I just couldn’t believe he was dead. The obit, after all, might have been put into the Vindicator’s online archive by some genius hacker. So Chester was still alive, and nothing had changed.
Maybe if I had stood at his casket in the funeral parlor and looked down at his pale, waxy, lifeless face, and had gone to the cemetery to watch his coffin descend into the neat rectangular hole in the ground, I’d believe it. I didn’t get that opportunity, though, because nobody in his extended family felt obligated to invite me. It was entirely by accident that I found out, nearly six months later.
Would I have flown from Italy to America for his funeral? Probably not.