When I was little I had an irritating habit of starting things and then getting bored and moving on to something else, leaving a scattering of unfinished projects in my wake. Then as I grew up I swung the other way and became quite obsessionally Mastermind-ish (‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’). Witness my compulsion to finish a book even if I’m hating it. Equally irritating, do I hear you mutter?
In January my stamina was tested sorely, because I was suddenly and unexpectedly dealing with writing/editing three books simultaneously – and of course couldn’t rest till all deadlines were met! One book was Remember Remember about which you’ve heard ad nauseam.
The second one was the Christmas story I create for my grandchildren annually which can only be completed and illustrated after the festive season, but I like to hand to them early in January while the actual event is still vivid in their minds.
The third one was my mother’s life history. Ahah! A new topic of conversation. For about four years Mother has been talking to me about her past and I’ve been recording her memories, writing them up on the computer when I returned home. It began as a form of therapy when she went into residential care following a disabling stroke, and it was lovely to see her become animated and loquacious as she relived her past … as far back as three years of age. Sometimes she’d spontaneously fill in details when we were doing unrelated things – like shampooing her hair or driving out somewhere. We developed a pattern; each time I visited I introduced a different facet of her life, and away she’d go. I learned things I’d never heard before.
This past year, though, it became increasingly apparent that the memory was not as reliable as it had once been. Time to draw a line. But her 90th birthday was looming … I made the decision to edit and polish the text in order to produce a bound book of her recollections to celebrate that.
Sadly it turned out to be just a few weeks too late. Now she is unable to read it herself, or to concentrate for any length of time on the stories she recounted so graphically. Nevertheless she was presented with a copy on her birthday and she symbolically gave her story to each of her children. A treasure for us all.
And even for her those hours of remembering aren’t wasted. Her written recollections will now form the basis of an aide-mémoire so that others can reminisce with her and hopefully prompt fleeting memories. How glad I am we shared those precious times and stories while we still could. So often even the best of intentions fall by the wayside.