After the Fact: On my way to the forum


Over coffee the other morning at the Alamosa Sr. Center, the Golden Girls were discussing writing their “memoirs.” Every now and again, there’s a class offered at the center to help seniors “organize” the writing of recollections, history as they remember it, stories told to them by parents and grandparents. Many of these ancestors have been gone for 50 or more years, nearly the entire “Greatest Generation” of men and women who saw this country rise to prosperity after WW II. 

Honestly, I’d rather hear Gatha talk about her days as a student in Margaret Polston’s class and their lifelong friendship than read the newest Hillary “memoir” explaining why and how she lost the election. Lynette was wishing her father-in-law, Jack Cotton, had written his perspectives of being a pro-basketball player, coach and educator but, instead, the family has to read what others have written. And, of course, all that Mabel remembers.

If you really want to know about the rigors of ranching in the early days of the Valley, ask Myron some Wednesday morning at the “coffee table.” Myron is in his 80’s, I believe, and still chasing cows and bucking hay. And while she wasn’t around in the hey-day of black and white movies, Beverly Lovato can spin a good tale of early California, back when Ronald Regan was a movie star and not yet a governor.

Their “memoirs” are vastly more exciting and way more in touch with the things we’d remember than the ghost-written glory story of Michelle Obama’s rise to the White House. And do you really want to buy the memoirs “written by” some 16-year-old was-been like Britney Spears?

If you’re looking for real inspiration, ask Ruth Heide to get a copy of her dad’s “mini-sermons” for you. Now, there’s a man who can make you laugh and cry, all in the same couple of pages. It’s a real treat to get Ruth’s folks’ “Christmas card,” a folder of thoughts that make you remember holidays gone by and, as they say, “the reason for the season.” 

My granddad always advised that, unless you want to do a ton of research, write what you know. Research is easier nowadays, with Google, but nothing is as much fun to read as a story “from the heart.” And a memoir doesn’t have to be GREAT literature, it doesn’t even have to be particularly well-organized, grammatically correct, and your participles can dangle if it makes you happy. Or you could ask Gatha about that. Most of our “memoirs” will not be published and, in fact, most will be read only by family and maybe a few close friends.

Dimas Chavez, my friend from high school, recently spent some time with John Grisham discussing the rigors of writing and publishing. John admits that, now, he does most of his research “on line” when writing out of the “legal genre” of his first novels.  Dimas started off with a “memoir” of growing up in Northern NM and later employments and travels that took him around the world (if they’d had an American embassy on the moon, they’d have sent him there, as well). Now, he’s writing a mystery novel so you just never know where your writing will take you, once you’ve started.

Call the director of your nearest senior center and ask about the fun things that are going on every day, from writing classes and yoga to games and the “just to get together” coffee times. You may find a whole new career, or at least something new and different to do while you’re otherwise busy being retired.

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