At the last meeting of my memoir class, a participant announced: “What you just did was affirm each individual in this group of people who are only seen as “old people.”
It was a summation of great import from this accomplished group of women and men we refer to as senior citizens. The best part of writing together they said was getting to know one another through their stories. Prior to the class, they’d only passed one another anonymously in the halls of the beautiful senior center.
When I asked why each was taking my class I received another important message.
“If no one tells the stories they will disappear from the history which has shaped the lives of my generation and that of our children.”
Alan, a slight soft-spoken man stood to read his story, remembering his father consoling his mother when he chose to go to university instead of staying at home to join the family grocery business. “Don’t worry, Alan will be back in a couple of weeks,” he told her. Years later Alan was the head of a surgical team performing a first-ever kidney transplant operation when chronic kidney failure was untreatable.
With labored speech, Marie shared her courageous 15-year journey of recovering from a brain injury from a car accident that took away her memory. After 5 days in a coma and a year in hospital, she learned to walk and returned to her home and children seeing everything as if for the first time. She went on to manage her family and win a gold medal in the international para-karate global championship.
Peter, a photographer, cherished the moment of standing in places where Van Gogh had stood and visited the Rjsmuseum where the drawing of “The Potato Eaters” made an indelible emotional impression.
Donna wrote about secretly sharing with only one family member that she was attending her first day of school at age 37. She went on to earn admittance to Law School and concluded, “It’s not so much what we do but who we are that matters, and that life is always good, even when it’s also bad if it’s grounded in those close and precious relationships with family and friends we love.”
A gentleman wrote about escaping Korea to come to Canada where he had a scholarship to attend university. With only $50 in his pocket and having sustained himself eating handfuls of raw rice, he arrived. Later he attained Professor Emeritus status in Australia and still advises on economic matters. His desire is to provide guidance and inspiration for young people as well as his own descendants.
Jane noted, “as time passes it has become clearer that I lived an amazing life—not to be forgotten.”
Harold wrote of careless people stepping on the footpad of his wheelchair or blocking his way in their mad rush to pass by. When he confronts them he said they shrug it off. “Oh, I didn’t see you,” they say. The 6-foot 2inch man of 200 pounds jokes he must be wearing an invisibility suit, but concludes, “I still remember when I was seen.”
Do you see these people? I write today to remind myself and others to open our eyes and minds to see.
If you know of someone who wants to write their life stories please click the photo above and share the link to get in touch with me.
Have a great Sunday and let’s keep our eyes and minds open.