Writing your memoir can drop a chapter of your life into a new perspective. My grandfather had a keen sense of fun, something I didn’t appreciate as a teenager. Memory takes me to this scene: “Peace!” shouted my shaved and hatted grandfather, rolling down the window of the Oldsmobile to wave two fingers at the long-haired male driver stopped in traffic beside us. This fourteen-year-old sank into the car’s floorboard in embarrassment. Gramps didn’t seem to notice and continued to think he was being funny.
Now that I am old enough to have more perspective, I can see that he was funny! It’s a good example of how one’s point of view changes with age. Part of the fun of life reminiscence is reviewing incidents and surprising ourselves with how differently we view them today. I have written the story of my grandfather introducing me to “hippies” in the early 1970s, and how that story turned out differently than either of us could have imagined. Take an old story from your life, and see what new insights it can provide.
It was when I was a teenager that I came up with a theory that history was biography. People’s lives excited me. Later I learned that thought was not original, and is one way of analyzing history. Much later, I became a personal historian, putting my interest in history and the individual together in my career. With this interest in true story, I enjoy meeting authors of memoir books, and just plain story tellers.
A few years ago I met Helen Hudson, author of Kissing Tomatoes. Not a biography book, but a memoir with a themed focus, it tells of Hudson and her husband’s life with Helen’s Granny Jo, when they bring her into their newlywed family. Though suffering with Alzheimer’s disease, Granny Jo lives with the couple another thirteen years. Common sense, compassion and humor keep the story of their progress enthralling. Helen began the book the year after Granny Jo’s death, in 1996. Her children were two and five years old, so she wrote before they awoke, finishing in 2000. Helen found a book agent who believed in her– but what came next was rejection. The letters from publishers were uniform: “We love the book. If only the author were famous!” along with “And what’s Alzheimer’s? Who wants to read about that?” Lots of people now! Kissing Tomatoes is available now and is an amusing and poignant memoir.
Now the author has come to another point of view, that of saving her own life story. Hudson loves to create, and now she is working on scrapbooks for her children. As she reflects on preserving her story for those she loves, she offers a warning: “Don’t wait until dementia sets in to tell your story. These days, there are many ways to preserve your past, from homemade videos to personal historians who can capture your life story…”
Don’t wait until dementia sets in to tell your story.
Helen Hudson, Agefully Aging, Sept. 20
Earlier this month, I was fortunate to meet with residents of Morning Pointe in Brentwood, Tennessee, to hear some stories about their grandparents. Since many of these were grandparents themselves, the stories that circulated featured times that were different from today. The theme that stayed the same was the love that bound together the people, the generations, and the stories.
As we age and benefit from life experience, our perspective changes. We are editing our memories! Begin your memoir journey, or get some help completing your memory book today. Retelling your memories will bring fresh insight. You are never too old to learn.
Perhaps she should start writing a list in a book: The Good Works of Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni; it was not an entirely fanciful idea, as she could give it to the children later on, when they were older, and they could remember what a fine man their foster father was. She wished that she had such a memento of her own father, the late Obed Ramotswe—a scrapbook, perhaps, with photographs and observations by people who knew him. But there was nothing like that; just memories, of a man looking at her and smiling in the way he did; of a voice that was gravelly and well used, but which contained all that wisdom, all that experience, of people, of cattle, of a country that he had loved so dearly. All that. All that.
– Mma Ramotswe, a character from The Double Comfort Safari Club, by Alexander McCall