As long as you can breathe, you can check a dream off your list.
I have acquired the hobby of ghost writing memoirs for the elderly who are afraid of being forgotten when they pass away. It’s true. You’d be shocked how many people fear they will disappear from loved ones memories despite several children, dozens of grandchildren, and a million great-grandchildren, of losing recognition for their life lessons, and credit for their successes, and finally, they want people to always remember who they loved, how they loved, what they regret, and the curve balls and lemons tossed their way. They want credit. They want validation. They want forgiveness. And I soak up their every word and never pass on an opportunity to help them share their story with their families. I do it for free because Vitality Stories 101, if you will, is the least expensive yet priceless education I will ever acquire.
My hobby started with my mother who has Parkinson’s Disease, who has already lost her ability to write and someday will lose her ability to speak (regrettably, something I prayed for in my teens), and carried on with a surreal discussion with 89 year old Opal as I sat next to her on a flight and she pulled a digital recorder out of her purse and asked, “Do you know how to use one of these?” Me: “Ma’am, do I ever.” A friend recently coined me as the, “Old Lady Whisperer,” to which I responded, “I have years of training as a Whisperer, period.”
My mother just distributed her book, Bonnie Beck Zutter Case In The Fast Lane With A Few Speedbumps to all of her children (“If the grandkids want to read it they can borrow one from their parent.”) She picked the title and every word of the book is hers. Since it was my mother and I had siblings to respect, I typed exactly what she dictated. I didn’t want family members to feel I had added any of my own interpretations or perspective.
My mom has anxiously been waiting for everyone to read it. The first week she called me as she hadn’t heard from any of her nine children (like any author she wanted praise!) and said, “I guess they don’t read as fast as I do.”
In the meantime, all of my 79 year old mother’s neighbors in assisted living in Carson City knew she was dictating her memoirs – my mom finds great joy in being one of the only residents with her own computer, internet, email, a Facebook account, and Netflix streaming, and now that she was dictating her book via her computer, she wasn’t shy about telling everyone – and once she received her copy she said, “I haven’t even had time to look at it. The aids and everyone here wants to read it.” Me: “Are you going to let them read it?” Mom: “No. My next book is going to be titled Assisted Living On A Full Moon. They can read that one.”
Fact: My mother, Bonnie, has always wanted to write a book. She has been an avid reader her entire life. She boasts of being in a small country school in Minnesota where she had read all of the books through the 8th grade reading level by the time she had finished the third grade.
So let it be known, at 79 she followed through on a goal and a dream and published her memoirs proving that it is never too late to do what you were meant to do, or something like that.
ASSISTED LIVING ON A FULL MOON…Holy Moly! I want to read it! Your mother sounds like a character. Her personality comes through your words so strongly. So, you were you’re mom’s personal assistant as she wrote her first book? Did anything she reveal surprise you? Did you find yourself at Thanksgiving or Christmas or Fourth of July having to keep yourself from cornering a sibling and saying, “Guess what Mom said about X…You won’t believe it!”???
Hi Carrie! Thanks for commenting. Yes, so she dictated her book from her assisted living home in Nevada, and I pulled it from Drop Box and typed it from Maryland. It took a total of 5 months with 300 minutes of dictation. You better believe that I wanted to share some of the details with siblings as I was typing. Sometimes I couldn’t help myself, or if a sibling asked me if anything had made me laugh, I would share this detail, and I’ll admit, I posted some quotes on Facebook for my friends to read. For the most part, I tried to keep my lips zipped, but it was tempting to spill the beans! Sometimes I felt like Scooby Doo while I was typing her stories. I often made sounds of “Rrrhh?” and “Ruh Roh.” Sometimes I rolled my eyes (what daughter wouldn’t?). I cried, I laughed, I felt empathy…and while she was ‘selective’ in her memories, the greatest ‘AH HA’ I had was, “Oh, she is a woman first, and a mother second, third, or fourth. She was/is an individual who was just trying to navigate her way through life, learning as she went without any manuals, growing up in a time with little understanding of mental illness and bipolar disorder, journeying through an era that didn’t talk about anything and didn’t demonstrate a lot of affection, and also trying to be a mother and wife in the midst of it all. It has been such a wonderful experience, and I’m happy she feels this accomplishment and is thinking about writing fiction (although some of my siblings might argue she already wrote a book of fiction – wink). I’ll have to expand on your questions in a newsletter! Thank you for the idea.