"The title of these memoirs may suggest that I wrote them against my will. That would be only half right. A part of me wanted to write an account of my life, and another part of me opposed doing so. In the end I overcame my misgivings and went ahead. I realize that writing one’s memoirs may sound pretentious since it used to be that only important people such as former presidents and retired diplomats did so. This is no longer the case; there are now “kids” of twenty-five who are writing memoirs.
There are several advantages in recording one’s memoirs instead of writing history. For one thing readers can always criticize the historian if they find errors of fact. The memoirist is, however, incorrigible (in the original, Latin sense of the word) since no one can say, “That’s not how you remember that event.” Another advantage is that it doesn’t require a lot of research. I have written fifteen-page “scholarly articles” that have sixty-five footnotes. I’ve sometimes read whole books just to support one sentence with one footnote. For a long time I’ve thought how much fun it would be to write something that wouldn’t require months of research, and it was fun. Anyone who relaxes, closes his eyes and travels back in time will be astounded to discover how much is stored deep down in the recesses of the mind. I made outlines and drafts full of abbreviations, and then I dictated to my computer using MacSpeech Dictate. It’s wonderful to speak and see the words appear on the screen. Of course, the first draft required extensive editing for many reasons, but I enjoyed that too. In a sense I only did what grandparents have done since tape recorders were invented, but now technology enables us to turn it into a book. The bare bones, non-scintillating style of what I have produced is partially due to the fact that it was dictated. I could have spent months or even years polishing what I have written, but as the poet Andrew Marvell put it, “At my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near…”
I mainly have my grandchildren in mind as an audience, but it may be that other relatives and even some friends will find the end product diverting. I have no illusions about any widespread interest, and I certainly don’t expect to sell any copies or earn any royalties.
If there is a pattern to my life, it is that Divine Providence repeatedly saved me from my own foolishness. Time and again I wanted something desperately and didn’t get it, only to find that God had something much better in store for me. There were many more “close calls” than I discuss herein --- many too frightening to contemplate or record. Looking at what I’ve accomplished in another way, a cynical friend once told me I haven’t done as well as my friends expected, but I’ve done better than my enemies hoped! There is much to be thankful for.
My teacher, Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew, read a draft of the manuscript and made many valuable suggestions. It is a pleasure to thank her publicly for her assistance and inspiration.
About S.T.B., M.A.,2 Ph.D. Jeremiah Reedy
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Published December 29, 2009
Biographies & Memoirs, Humor & Entertainment.