… was my father’s birthday. This year we are marking it without him. We’ll be taking some of those Chinese lanterns up onto a nearby hill, lighting them, before sending them up into the night sky with our love and final goodbyes.
My father was a great raconteur. Any time we had a gathering, he’d sit with a glass in his hand, and tell a tale. Not made-up stories you understand, but real stuff, things which had actually happened. And he’d had quite the life. He’d spent huge chunks of his life in India and in Africa, although he was also schooled in a “posh” boarding school and enjoyed time building life-long friendships whilst a teenager on the south coast of England. He liked people and he had a bit of the devil in him, so humour featured heavily in his favourite tales.
He had a great memory, he held all the facts and figures of his family and my mother’s family in his head. We lost a lot of that when dementia destroyed that wonderful mind. So, I’m trying to capture as many of those stories as I can.
My daughter tried to get him to tell his stories into a recorder, but I think he felt awkward and the stories simply didn’t flow. He repeated the factual stuff, but the vibrancy was gone. You see, he was a social creature, and he told the stories to entertain.
I haven’t decided whether to write a straight memoir, or to weave it – heavily – into a piece of fiction. Or whether I’ll write it just for us … for family. For now, I’m just bashing out the stories as I remember them.
If anyone out there in blog land has any advice to offer, an opinion to share … I’m open to hearing them all. Right this way folks!
© Debra Carey, 2017
Writing it “just for family” and a “straight memoir” are not mutually exclusive, though you may need to either be wary of too personal stuff or footnote things that non-family would not understand. Whatever you do make sure that you have back-ups in more than one place, even in hard copy form. My Dad wrote a memoir of his early days of the Second World War. He was on a Territorial Army Annual Camp in August 1939 and didn’t get back home for four years! I typed it all out on a BBC Master 128 and printed copies for him, me and a few others. The Master disks cannot now be read and the printed copies have disappeared in two house moves. I may find one when I eventually delve into some old papers but that is a long shot.
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Thank you Alan. I had thought of the second, although have – of course – done nothing about taking back-ups yet! So the reminder is timely, especially after my luck with computers this year (I’m on my third!) but the first one is something I hadn’t thought of and is most useful.
I do hope you find your father’s memoir as I just love personal history (and I’d be fascinated to have a read). Himself is more interested in the big picture stuff and can’t see the relevance of the experience of ordinary folk, whereas I’m not overly taken with the former and simply eat up the latter.
Whatever you decide, just write it all down first, before you forget. And yes, do a back-up.
My father, whom I lost in 2009, had decided to write his own memoir, but discovered the Internet in his seventies. “I just need to check out this or that,” he’d say. And then his computer hard drive crashed, so even the little he wrote before he discovered Google and on line newspapers was lost.
Fortunately, he took part in Spielberg’s Shoah Project, and I’ve just transferred the videos to DVD, but it doesn’t talk about his childhood before the war.
My mum is a bit like your Dad. She will talk about her youth, but not record it.
Thanks Sue. I wrote quite a lot before he died, but seem to have ground to a halt since. I’m sure it’s a grief thing, but I’m feeling like I want to dip my toes back into the project again, hence my post. I do worry that I’ll behave like your Dad and get all caught up in the fun of the research and forget to the do important stuff (the backing-up). That’s just my style 😉
I’ve not heard of Spielberg’s Shoah Project … I’m running off to google!
So sad that you’ve lost your father’s childhood memories, but I hope you’ll be able to capture those of your mother somehow.