Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom (And Whimsy)

Posted on August 30, 2023 under Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom with no comments yet


Pondering my next story


“I will remember you,

Will you remember me,

Don’t let your life pass you by,

Weep not for the memories.”

I Will Remember You – Sarah McLachlan


Why do I write?

Looking back on my life, I guess I’ve always been a writer, even though I never thought much about it. Most of us took our first rudimentary steps towards literacy when we learned our ABC’s and penned simple three-word sentences.“See Dick run.” We learned cursive writing. I curse often when I write. My recent experiences back in the classroom have told me that cursive writing is nearly extinct.

In high school and university, we had to write a lot of essays. One of the most memorable that I can remember was when I was taking my education degree. As a future English teacher, we were asked by our English methods professor to pen a piece so that he could assess the talent in the room. He was a severe task master and obviously didn’t think there was much star material in his presence. He eviscerated my masterpiece giving me a failing grade. I wasn’t alone. He humiliated several fellow classmates, bringing a few of them to tears. It was an important lesson for me, and it had nothing to do with writing. I promised myself that I would never humiliate a student.

When I attended university, I took part in many extracurricular activities like intramural sports, learning how to play bridge in the basement of the library (when I was supposed to be in class), and going to pubs. I was also the sports editor for the student newspaper, The Xaverian Weekly. I had almost forgotten about this until a few weeks ago when I was asked by the Alumni office to look through the 1973 yearbook to identify some photos for our upcoming Golden Grad. I was amused to see that I received a “Literary X”. Reporting sports scores wasn’t likely to get me a Pulitzer Prize.

I can’t remember when I started journalling, but I believe it coincided with the birth of my children. My filing cabinet is filled with all kinds of memorabilia, which in due course will likely find its way to the local landfill, but I’m hoping that my children will save the copious, hand written journals. Two in particular stand out. Five years apart in the late 80s and early 90s, I wrote a daily journal, chronicling the lives of my family and my community. It’s pretty mundane stuff but life is ostensibly mundane, don’t you think? I think that this is where I learned the discipline of writing because every morning, between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m., I was at the kitchen table, recounting the events of the previous day. These days, remembering what I did a couple of hours ago can be challenging.

In 2012, on a trip to Florida, I wrote a funny (and a tad sarcastic) piece on the back of my 8.5×11 boarding pass. When I ran out of space, I wrote the ending on a bar napkin. During happy hour at our time share later that day, I read the story out loud. My friends loved it, but I think that alcohol and appetizers may have clouded their judgment. That is when I began writing regularly and discovered that I had a passion for it. Subsequently, I ended up writing a humour column for three newspapers. If I thought that I might scratch out a living as a freelance writer in retirement, that was quickly quashed when I cashed my first few cheques.

And then I wrote and published 7 books.

I am reading a book. It’s called The Library Book by Susan Orlean. The book is about libraries, hardly a page turner, but I must admit that I am learning a lot about the underbelly of libraries. They are much more than a place to warehouse books. When I arrived at page 93, I came upon a paragraph that summed up nicely why the written word is still important. Rather than write a precis (I remember writing these for KM in grade 11), I am publishing it here in its entirety.

“The idea of being forgotten is terrifying. I fear that not just that I, personally, will be forgotten, but that we are all doomed to being forgotten – that the sum of life is ultimately nothing; that we experience joy and disappointment and aches and delights and loss, make our little mark on the world, and then we vanish, and the mark is erased, and it is as if we never existed. If you gaze into that bleakness even for a moment, the sum of life becomes null and void, because if nothing lasts, nothing matters. It means that everything we experience unfolds without a pattern, and life is just a wild, random, baffling occurrence, a scattering of notes with no melody. But if something you learn or observe or imagine can be set down and saved, and if you can see your life reflected in subsequent ones, you can begin to discover order and harmony. You know that you are part of a larger story that has shape and purpose – a tangible, familiar past and a constantly refreshed future. We are all whispering in a tin can on a string, but we are heard, so we whisper the message into the next tin can and the next string. Writing a book, just like building a library, is an act of sheer defiance. It is a declaration that you believe in the persistence of memory.”

I am not suggesting that everyone writes a book. However, you could go and grab a Hilroy and start jotting down memories – while you are still able. And do it with cursive writing! A Hilroy is virtually indestructible. A Word document on your computer is no substitute. Your children, grandchildren and those who follow, will be very happy and grateful that you did. I can see you muttering, telling me that you wouldn’t have anything interesting to say. Agreed, the whole world won’t be remotely interested in the minutia of your life, but your loved ones will. I guarantee it.

My brother is the family’s genealogist. For well over a quarter of a century, he has painstakingly documented the lives of our forefathers (mothers!). Finding old family records is not for the faint of heart. I would have loved to have read stories and anecdotes written by my ancestors. Don’t you often wonder what your great, great grandparents were like?

Why do I write? Am I afraid of being forgotten, just a handful of dust in the wind? Not in the least. Someday, I hope one of my great grandchildren will be poring over my journals or books to understand why they love the outdoors, music and are obsessed with sports.

I write because I can.

And I love it.

Have a great weekend.


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Highland Hearing Clinic

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