The Past as Prologue

The past eight months of my life have been busy with my 90-year-old mother. Some days are good, some not so. We have a caregiver for a period of time almost every day, but I've taken on the majority of her care. Going to a doctor's appointment takes up most of a day and wears both of us out. Just getting her to the car to get her out of the house for a while is a challenge. There are good days and not so good days.

Although Mom's short term memory is bad, she can still tell the best family stories, especially the silly things I did when I was younger. Those memories are phenomenal. She repeats conversations from 75 years ago in a manner I suspect is verbatim. She listened to the original War of the Worlds broadcast in its entirety and had no idea it terrified so many people. She didn't want for much during the Great Depression because her mother raised chickens and had a garden. She ran a boarding house and cooked for as many as 100. My mother's six older siblings and their husbands always helped out.

When our neighborhood trees were T-Ped one Halloween my Mom never gave me away: the tissue was pink and she knew it had come from our home.

I have more time to listen. I'm jotting down her revelations in a notebook. I won't get all the stories I missed, but I'll have a record of some of them. I learned that after her father died when she was nine, she and her mother took the train from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they lived, back to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where her mother successfully managed the food service of a country club/hotel. Quite an accomplishment for a French-Canadian who could not read or write English. When Mom was in high school her friends made stove top potatoes. They cooked thinly sliced potatoes on the wood stove lids, slid them into bowls and ate them while listening to one of the few radios in town.

These reminiscences are important memoirs I can pass on to my children. This year I plan to write up a few of Mom's stories and team them with the appropriate pictures and make little books for my family. I know they will appreciate them, as my daughter and son take great delight in stories of my youthful escapades.

I wish I had thought of this years ago, of leaving a legacy for my children and grandchildren. But perhaps we need the wisdom we gain as we age to realize how important this is.

I think I'll take a memoir writing class. An instructor in Coastal University's OLLI program has what sounds like a great approach.

Once I have all the stories, I just need a great opening line and perhaps I'll become famous. More likely my family will have a legacy to pass on to their families. Sometimes recognition from loved ones is more important then being famous.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Tibby,
My sister wrote a book called; 'When Is Today' (by Patty Bell), about this very subject. It's more or less a journal over the days, months and years of my "Little Mother's" life. As Patty would say "a true story of our family's 'time travel' through the world of Alzheimer's disease.
You may find it interesting reading since you seem to be going through the same issues at this time.
I will put Mom, you and your family in my prayers.

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