Friday, October 12, 2012

A great session with an Alzheimer's Support Group

Tag! You're It! Toight it's Lisa Haselton who's working on a wonderful time-travel novel that will take her back to her grandparents' story, via a trunk in the attic of the house generations of her famiy have lived in. Rad about it at

 I’m laughing at the variety of my speeches, Yesterday I spoke to realtors about mystery; today I spoke to an Alzheimer’s Support Group about memoir. I was a bit—okay, a lot--worried about this, because if I simply had to talk about writing a memoir I could probably say all I know in ten minutes. The group was two hours. I was afraid these people would not participate, not offer memories, etc., because Alzheimer’s patients often have a hard time collecting and organizing their thoughts.
I began by talking about reasons for writing a memoir—to capture your life for yourself, so you can relive fond memories; to capture your story for your children. But I stressed that memoir doesn’t have to be shared. The facility coordinator talked about the importance of old photographs in sparking memories and suggested scrapbooking.
But when the talk turned to their memories, I was in for a pleasant surprise. They volunteered memories. Several had grown up on a farm, and one, a dear friend, said, “I can smell the barn even now.” He told a funny story about his brother mistaking Ex-Lax for candy, which led to a discussion of our experiences with outhouses. Yes, even city girl that I am, I have used an outhouse a lot more than once. A woman I knew had owned a bookstore, which I’d visited one wonderful weekend—so we had fun reminiscing about that. Another man had experience in both city and corporate politics and talked about his career. Then we got on the subject of travel—from New Zealand to San Miguel de Allende, from Spain to Scotland. They talked—with me prodding and telling a few stories—for almost an hour and a half, and the friend who asked me to do this said the thinks they really enjoyed it.
Yes, once one said, in mid-sentence, “I’m losing it,” and another said, “What did I just say? It went right over my head.” But everyone just laughed and the talk went on. I so admire the people who are battling this disease, and the caretakers who are with them usually 24/7. 
I ended by passing out a sheet of questions and suggesting that memoir doesn’t have to be a written narrative: it can be a journal of notes; you could tell your stories to someone else who would write them for you; you could dictate them into a tape recorder, but I noticed that many people did take notes. One woman said she’d been keeping a journal since she was a child.
I had a rare and much enjoyed treat—lunch with my brother and sister-in-law who were in town mostly I gather because she wanted corned beef and cabbage, which the deli serves on Fridays. I had a half a tongue sandwich and John had lox and bagels, which he pronounced better than usual. Nice visit with them, and then it was time for a quick nap, pick up Jacob, fiddle around, and I went to a small but most pleasant cocktail party. Wonderful food, fun to meet new people since I only knew one man at the party.
Now home to a house full of junk. Jordan and Christian are having a garage sale in my front yard tomorrow. Aaargh! Do you know how much I hate that? But if you’re in Fort Worth, come by Berkeley—it’s the neighborhood garage sale, and we have a really good deal on a couch. “Night!

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