My good friend published his memoir recently. It is brutal, heartbreaking. Took him 10 years to write.
Memoirs aren’t typically feel good affairs. They usually involve an intense exposition of a painful past.
The earliest memoir I can recall reading was When All the Laughter Died in Sorrow by Lance Rentzel. He grew up in my hometown and went on to have a successful career in the National Football League until he was arrested for indecent exposure. I remember the story made me cry.
I’m not much for a truthful examination of my history. It’s not that there is anything particularly disturbing. I’d just rather not poke around to find out.
Besides, I don’t like to cry. I prefer laughter. I have always relied on humor to deflect a sorrowful event, so much so that I could easily call my memoir When All the Sorrow Died in Laughter. Or I could use a phrase my dad used to always accuse me of and call it “Shits and Giggles.”
Any issues I have with my past would by now be so suppressed poor old Freud wouldn’t be able to scratch the surface. I have so blurred life’s major events I’m not even able to discern reality from my over active imagination. Besides, I’m not really trying to reconcile my past. I’m trying to come to grips with my future.
My Dad is not doing well. He has trouble with his memory. It is noticeably worse than the last time I saw him. He is further withdrawn and socially isolated. In his conversations, he sticks to a comfortable, well-worn narrative.
He is convinced that someone in our family, usually one of my two brothers, has wronged him and taken his money. I am only able to escape his suspicion because I live 200 miles away. When I come to visit he starts in.
“Well your brother did it again” he likes to say.
“Did what?” I will ask.
“Took my money.”
Sometimes he aims his frustration at my brother Will, sometimes at Tom. I used to try to defend them but it was no use. He would just grow increasingly frustrated and stop talking altogether. So now I just change the subject.
This week when I saw him he was ready to relay the latest larceny, only this time there was a slight twist.
“Well he did it again” said my Dad.
“What are you talking about?” I asked already aware of the likely answer.
“Timmy. He took my money.”
Screeeeech. Hold on a second. Nervous laughter.
“No you don’t mean Timmy. You must mean Will ….or….or……Tom” I stammered.
My dad ignored my recast of the usual suspects and thankfully moved on to other topics of interest, like where we were going to eat dinner and whether it was going to rain.
Later that evening I was visiting with a good friend about the difficulties associated with the social isolation of an aging parent.
“We don’t seem to be having that problem,” said my friend.
My friend’s son, Joe, then told a story about his grandfather, my friend’s dad. It seems the grandfather, Big Don Edwards, has taken an interest in Facebook. He is a highly gregarious, outgoing fellow so it has become a regular part of his day.
Grandson Joe Edwards recently enrolled in college and was meeting new people and adding them to his legion of FB friends. A few days later one of his new classmates approached him.
“Hi Joe” she said. “Hey….um….do you happen to know someone named Don Edwards?”
“Um, maybe. Why?” asked Joe.
“He poked me on Facebook.”
Facepalm. Joe later learned that his grandfather had been routinely poking his friends over the previous two weeks. To be fair, Joe was extremely good humored about the whole affair. When I relayed this story to my daughter she was so stupefied she was unable to speak for about 3 minutes.
So what is this week’s lesson? Stay engaged. It doesn’t have to be Facebook or Twitter. But human beings are social creatures. So get out. Enjoy life. Meet new people. Make new friends. Stop dwelling on yesterday. Get excited about tomorrow. Start writing a kick ass memoir.
If you can’t make new friends, I know a grandfather who will teach you. Hell, he might even show you how to poke them.