Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Power of Senior Writing: Perhaps I've Made a Difference

As in most of my other writing, my main goal in my twice-a-month eGenerations column, now more than a year old, is to encourage boomers and senior citizens to write, to record their memories, experiences, and wisdom for their families. I often wonder if anyone is listening, but in at least one case, I think I've encouraged a senior to write.

I've never met Wayne in person. I met him through eGenerations, where he contributes to his journal and to the forums. Wayne lives far away. He is over 80, widowed, disabled, and confined to a wheelchair. A daughter is his caregiver.

That sounds depressing, doesn't it? I can tell from his posts that he does get depressed by his situation. He even said goodbye to his eGeneration friends some time ago, but he came back in relatively good spirits. Wayne hasn't had an easy life--losing his beloved wife was a major tragedy for him--but he somehow manages to maintain an ironic sense of humor.

In his eGenerations profile, Wayne lists his biggest challenge as living and his wildest dream as walking. I'm old enough to understand.

Here are some excerpts from several of Wayne's eGenerations journal entries and comments.

"Twenty-one offspring at ages from 60 years to minus 5 weeks. Most of my hand-me-downs will not be material, but will be my memoirs, just recently written and covering the events of a family from its start to my finish. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for what it is worth."

"Seniorwriter, I think I have started writing out of frustration and confusion. I am frustrated because I cannot do what I always did and I'm confused because I don't remember why. Writing of any kind seems to help put facts and figures in place, in order, while otherwise they are just bouncing around in my mostly dried out gourd of a head. In some of us, God forgot to include the zerk fitting and so we were never properly maintained."

(I had no idea what a "zerk fitting" is, so I looked it up. It seems that it's a fitting providing a way for grease to be forced into mechanical joints that need grease to prevent wear and make movement easy. Perhaps those of you who are mechanically inclined knew that. What an appropriate image Wayne has used for some of the problems of aging!)

In a longer journal entry, Wayne wrote:

"I just finished proofing and printing out my memoirs, and possibly just in time, as I seem to be losing more of my abilities daily. Darned Golden Years. Anyway, I ended up with 62 half-pages (5 1/2 x 8 1/2), including some pictures and genealogy charts and historical records. I managed to find a "Four Seasons Winery" binder which fits in real well with my four seasons of progress: The Early Years to 21, The Middle Years to 65, The Later Years to 75, and The Ending Years to--God only knows. Looks real professional too.

"Wish I had met Seniorwriter earlier and started writing earlier. So many memories and so little time. Our offspring and theirs deserve to know something of their ancestry for a variety of reasons, one reason being health. I was able to offer some medical/genealogical information to the doctor of a 3-year-old grand-niece which will help prevent her from going through a lifetime of genetic Crohn's disease.

"I would like to make this recommendation to the general membership of eGenerations: write it down in some, any form so that those coming after you will have some of your knowledge, your experiences to treasure, or in some cases to avoid. Memories are all we have to leave sometimes, and oh yes, we're all going to leave them here.

"I would like to thank all of you for the help you've given me and the encouragement to keep on writing."

Many thanks, Wayne, for heeding some of my suggestions and writing your memoirs. You've made me feel that there's an audience for an old, retired writing teacher. Perhaps I can still make a difference in a few lives.

Copyright 2008 by Marlys Marshall Styne


TravelinOma said...

This is a great contribution that will affect generations. Don't minimize your influence, Senior Writer!

julies said...

I am from Chicago and I am wondering if you ever help people who lack confidence in their writing skills. I would like to write more. Even though I wrote a dissertation many years ago I am not pleased with what I write.

seniorwriter said...

Julies: I am not sure how to answer your question. I do give informal advice to people who correspond with me, but I don't have a lot of free time right now. If you want me to read something short that you've written, I'll comment on it. For more formal copy editing, etc., I'd have to charge a fee. You can find my email address in my blog profile. Thanks for your interest in writing.