Lives are not stories. A day, a month, a year, or a lifetime has no plot. Our experiences are only the raw stuff of stories. The beginnings of our lives are arbitrary; usually their endings come too soon or too late for any neat narrative conclusions. We turn our lives into stories, and, in doing so, we can stop them where we choose. Our stories do in a small way what memoirs and autobiographies do on a grander scale: they allow a self-fashioning that gives remembered lives a coherence that the day-to-day lives of actual experience lack. History, of course, also imposes coherence, but the historian works will less malleable stuff than memory. Memoirs are seamless; good histories disrupt.
-Richard White, Remembering Ahanagran: Storytelling in a Family's Past (New York: Hill and Wang, 1998), p. 292.
She wants her silence to be final. Here, more than anyplace else, she wants her memory uncontested. She does not want me talking to others, gathering other stories, looking into the remnants of my father's past. When she is silent, she wants those things about which she refuses to speak to remain as quiet as the tomb. That is the ultimate power of stories. They take on themselves the decision about what will be remembered and what will be told. The part of the past she claims most fiercely is the part she wants forgotten.