Taking cues from Grandma

May 23, 2009

At my grandmother’s assisted-living center, residents line up their walkers in the hall when they go into the dining hall for a meal. When I went to visit this week, more than a dozen black roller-walkers were up against the wall, each personalized with nick-knacks hanging from the bars.

I planned to take a day off from writing for my visit. After all, it took an hour just to get to Grandma’s place, and we had a doctor’s appointment and lunch on the agenda.

But those walkers sparked a memory, reminding me of a scene that deserves space in my book. Before I knew it, I was asking the receptionist for a pen and jotting down notes:

One night in rural Cameroon, I sat on a short stool in a dirt-floor kitchen, around a smoldering fire, sharing dinner with a family. Three teenage boys, who represented just a fraction of the large polygamous family, peppered me with questions about life in America.

“In America, do you eat corn?”

“Do children play soccer in America?”

“In America, do people ride motorcycles?”

Then the oldest in the group, 18-year-old Sylvain, threw me this curve ball:

“Is it true that in America, when someone grows old, you send them away to live with other old people?”

Thanks to Grandma’s hallway full of walkers, that scene — and my flustered, embarrassed response — is now on my to-write list. Sometimes, a day off from writing can do a writer good.

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    0 Replies to “Taking cues from Grandma”

    • paizefiddler says:

      Really enjoyed this post. So true – we as authors can do so much writing we forget to go out and live and have experiences from which to receive inspirations for reality-based stories.

      Good stuff. 🙂

      The Old Silly from Free Spirit Blog

    • Karen Walker says:

      Yes, I learned when I was working on my memoir that there was no such thing as a “day off.”

      Karen Walker

    • That’s true—some of the times when I thought there was no way I could fit writing in actually ended up being more productive than days I sat down to work!

      Hope you had a great visit with your grandmother.


    • alan chin says:

      I’ve spent many years traveling outside this country, mostly in Asia, where the concept of retirement homes is non-existant. There the family unit lives together, often five gernerations, and everyone takes care of everyone. The old are valued as much as the young. I think we miss a lot of enjoyment, as well as wisdom, by brushing our elderly under the rug, simply because we are too busy to take care of them.
      I’m happy you plan to write about that experience. I would love to read it when you’re finished.

      alan chin

    • Helen Ginger says:

      There are other cultures where all generations live together for lifetimes. That’s not true in ours, at least for most of us.

      It’s great that you remembered the incident. I hope you’ll write about it and share with us.

      Straight From Hel

    • NA Sharpe says:

      Sometimes the best inspirations come when we decide to give ourselves a little room and step away from the writing. I’m glad the memory was triggered and inspired you to write.


    • That’s a poignant story, but assisted living communities or nursing homes (especially for Alzheimer patients) are critically important to families with two working adults, and maybe a couple of teen-aged kids, and especially to older kids in their 70’s who might be caring for a parent in his 90s. It’s not sweeping an elder under the rug when you admit you can’t provide the level of care that elder needs. This subject could be a whole book in itself, Alexis.


      • Alexis Grant says:

        Hey, I’m not saying our way of caring for elders isn’t sufficient, just that his comment pointed out one of the many differences between our two worlds.

        • Yes, our culture is different. In places where families live together for generations, there are many people to help care for the ill and the aged. That’s what makes it all possible.

          On a lighter note, your discirption of the line of walkers reminded me of a childhood event as well. My extended family was on one of our many camping trips near the St. Lawrence river. Every day we’d pack up a picnic lunch and head for the river. One day, as we were cleaning up to leave, several vans pulled up and unloaded their cargo – people in wheelchairs were lined up facing the water, a few feet from the edge. My youngest brother kept staring and we kept telling him to stop. He ignored us. We finally had everything cleaned up and told him it was time to go. He said we couldn’t go yet because he wanted to see the race.

    • Enid Wilson says:

      Definitely A! You get inspiration from everywhere. And I like the scene. Nicely done.

      In Quest of Theta Magic

    • Enjoyed the post. You never know when inspiration might strike. Hope you and your grandmother enjoyed visiting.

      Jane Kennedy Sutton

    • K. A. Laity says:

      It’s always good to be prepared to take advantage of the inspiration. I know I always have something to write with and jot things down when they occur because I’m always afraid they’ll be forgotten later. Excellent!

    • Karen Brees says:

      The inspiration comes when the mind is open. Seeing the possibilites around you is what writing is all about. Good post!

    • drewfbush says:

      It’s amazing how true life inspires us.


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