Memory has always struck me as a rather tenuous thing. Even the healthiest minds muddle and jumble and transpose memories. Inevitably, I struggle with the idea of memory primarily because of my own love-hate relationship with it. I’ve no idea why some events are indelible, while others are frustratingly present.
It’s often near impossible to trace back the origin of a particular story, and so it is with “Shepherding“. I’m certain, as much as I can be, that this story’s origin stems from my trips to visit my grandmother in her retirement home. While she is not in need of memory care, the unit exists on the same floor as her small apartment.
In many ways “Shepherding” is an exploration of perceptions and inner struggle. Terese struggles with finally making sense of what her granddaughter is doing. Even in her own intermittent confusion she is able to make enough sense of the actions to feel culpable. For me, this makes what is happening all the more complex as Terese has to square her filial responsibility with the responsibility as a lifelong devout Christian. I’m not naïve enough to claim unfettered responsibility for the story itself.
To some degree I hope that this story is troubling for readers. It troubles me that such things no doubt take place in this day and age. It’s troubling how easy it would be for someone to take advantage of a grandparent that is not yet gone into complete dementia. I don’t know yet whether or not my own parents will fall victim to such things. I have no idea if I will some day fall victim to such things. All I can do is write a story that highlights my fears.
This story is one of the nearly a dozen that appears in my first collection of short stories, The Filled In Spaces. The titled is taken from a story that personifies the thrust of all of the stories. The idea that there are voids in our experience. There are spaces for other people to fill in. We know not when or how these spaces will be filled in.
For me, the ultimate question of “Shepherding” is who shepherds who.
About the Author
Michael Overa was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. After completing his MFA at Hollins University, Michael returned to Seattle where he currently works as a writing tutor. He is a writer-in-residence with Seattle’s Writers In The Schools Program. His work has appeared in the Portland Review, East Bay Review, Fiction Daily, Inlandia, and Across the Margin, among others. “Shepherding” is included in his first collection of short stories, The Filled In Spaces, published through Unsolicited Press.