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Memoir Monday 1

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The Memoir Monday feature will be posted every other Monday.

This memoir writing is tough stuff. Many of my online friends are from a circle of published or soon-to-publish memoir writers. Most are based on hard subjects; illness and injury, death by disease or suicide, and abuse or neglect. You have to wonder why these memoirs are so widely read. At first glance those subjects are sad or depressing.

Why do we read them? I have always read memoirs and biographies. Sometimes I’m drawn in by pure curiosity, other times the author is covering an experience that I have had, or someone close has had. I want to know how they got through it. I want a blatant or even a subtle message of hope. Yes, hope.

The author lived to write about it, so maybe they have a secret of survival to share with me. Maybe they write so well, with that just-right stroke of humor, that I will be whisked away on their magic carpet for a few hours. I hold onto the hope that the author not only survives, but thrives after their crisis. Hope. I read memoirs for hope.

Hope may also be the reason that I keep hitting delays in my own memoir. August will be five years since Paul’s death. The memoir keeps pulling me back to the hard memories, when I am beginning to see the light of happy memories of Paul, in my everyday life. Yet…we both truly wanted to share our journey with others. We wanted to offer help along the way, for others in a health crisis, and we wanted to offer hope.

That is why I took on Memoir Mondays. I need to get this show on the road! I want to share this part of the journey with my community. I would love some feedback. I plan on exploring the topic of memoir, as well as some resource links for others who are writing memoirs. I’ll review some memoirs and announce it when my friends publish their memoirs. There is a large community of memoir writers online, so this won’t all be new information, but it will be what I think is interesting, and what I think you might enjoy.

In the mean time, here is some of the writing from within my own thick “Memoir” file.

 

A little background: My husband, Paul, spent a year in and out of hospitals, and in short-term housing near the main hospital, while fighting Acute Myeloid Leukemia and the Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) that he got as a result of a bone marrow transplant. During that year, I kept family and friends updated by way of an online patient journal on Care Pages. The following excerpts are from the memoir I’m writing, and were written during a few days of the last hospital stay:

June 13, 2009 Last night we had our best sleep in a long time. That’s good, but really, we’re funnier when we go sleepless in Seattle. Since yesterday, Paul has a bit of medication-caused edema in his belly and arms. He is still taking walks around the hallway loop, 10-40 minutes a day. He’s trying to do his exercises, but his belly argues with too much movement.

The biopsies from Tuesday’s procedure showed that Paul has adeno virus in his stomach now. They have added two more drugs to fight it, and more fluids before and after the new antiviral. It’s a toss up which is worse, the virus or the treatment. The other drug protects him from the damage the antiviral causes. What a viscous circle. They continue to try and balance his glucose, but it keeps dropping low , then spiking high. They began a new plan today and it has stayed pretty even so far. Through it all, Paul pushes on to do everything he can to get better.

Wishing we were there,

Patti & Paul

June 14, 2009 (warning–talk of needles) Paul is doing better today. His cramping belly has let up a lot. This was ATG day, when they pre-medicate him, which sends him off to a pretty deep sleep. This eve he had his weekly x-ray. We walked earlier, and will walk again later.
Tomorrow is ECP day, when he is hooked up to a machine in his room for 3 1/2 hrs. I can’t remember if I told you all about it or not, but they put a large needle in a vein, then strap his arm to a small board to keep it immobile and straight. They take blood out, separate it, take one layer and treat it with a photosensitive drug, then pass the treated portion under UV lights, then the machine puts it all back inside Paul’s vein. I have read some encouraging studies about this therapy, and we are hopeful that it can help clear out the GVHD.
Everything they are doing will take time, so we are settled in for the long haul. We’re up for it, though. Whatever it takes to get us back home and Paul healed.
Husky stadium is outside our window, so we have been watching the flurry of graduation taking place this weekend. It is surreal to watch all these young people celebrating starting out their lives full of hope, from a hospital room window, where we fight for Paul’s life.
Paul says to tell you all, “Hi!” and thanks for all the support.
Paul & Patti

More background. Paul passed away in our bed at home on August 9, 2009. Less than a month later, I started back with my emails to friends and family, while I tunneled through grief and estate issues.

Sept 2, 2009 BLOG BLOG BLOG BLOG—It’s all about me! (I really know it isn’t)

Just tonight, I realized that I miss doing the updates about Paul’s health and our daily lives as fighters-for-his-life in a foreign land (hospital in Seattle). I thought that I could continue in a private journal, although the feedback is disappointing :>) So now I will write about me fighting for my mental life in this foreign land of Paul Is Gone. I will share the journey with you, because it is a habit that I still need.

I went to the doc today because a sore throat kept me up all night. I just have some infection in my throat and sinuses. With a few antibiotics I’ll be on the mend. I feel like hell, okay? I’m only up now, because Mark (family friend, lives close) signaled with his gate bell, that he was dropping off provisions, along with a mocha from my Aunt Judee. I couldn’t get back to sleep. I got up to see if no news was still good news—yes, it is! That means no evil attacks about the estate today. Someone spread the “rumor” that there was going to be a sale here this Saturday. Friends and family think the rumor was spread just to worry me, ahhhh, success for whoever started it!

I feel like such a scholar; I added “Judee” and “ahhhh” to the dictionary! There’s just something empowering about adding words to a dictionary… my personal dictionary on my computer…but STILL!

Finally, I changed the auto insurance to only cover my truck. One more thing done. Oh, that would be two, as I also called to get paperwork started for a small pension.

From the long, wide deck overlooking the back yard and acreage; A little after 8 P.M., and here comes that moon, right on time. That was my entertainment last night; watching as Jupiter chases the moon up the hill and over the tree tops. Much better than My Name Is Earl—sorry, Paul, but anything is better than Earl. I just realized that the moon actually rises in front of, and then above Jupiter. When the moon finally takes the lead, Jupiter resumes the chase across the sky. That’s way better than that episode when Earl got stuck in jail. I do not miss television. I would watch unlimited hours to have Paul back.

#####################################################

Thanks for being here,

Patti

Author: Patti Hall

Writer, daughter, sister, mom, niece, grani, and friend. Works-in-progress; 3 children's books, some poetry and a memoir series, "Souvenirs from My Heart." Pursuits of happiness include gardening, walking the beach, reading, writing, photography, traveling and genealogy. I am a widow (2009), lost my sis in 2012, my aunt and a precious grandson in 2013.

27 thoughts on “Memoir Monday 1

  1. Fighting for your mental health in any circumstance definitely gives hope to all who read you. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. How interesting that you mentioned “Earl.” That was my f-in-law’s middle name and I was the death date of your husband I was thinking of when my f-in-law died. It was almost a year before your husband. Though sad, your writing is raw and real. I enjoyed reading. It brings back a bit of what I felt when my dad went through his cancer struggles.

    • Thank you, Linda. That is interesting. Our connections keep connecting! 🙂 I’m glad that you enjoyed. Today I am in a much better place, but putting the memoir together does put it all front and center again.
      P

      • Wow. What the heck. I obviously did not read that before posting. I’m glad you could interpret my words!
        I’m glad to hear you are doing better!

      • I did laugh, but with you, not at you! 🙂 I recognized and could interpret it, because my words come out like that sometimes. No worries.
        P

  3. Ah, the comfort of the moon and Jupiter, too.

    I love memoir, and I love powerful fiction about hard experiences. War and Peace or Madame Bovary, for example. Or The Grapes of Wrath or Sometimes a Great Notion. Operas, plays, music, art, and dance are often about heartbreak and loss, humans prevailing over the impossible, or losing what they wanted but gaining immeasurable wisdom. I think we read these things because we want to know how to survive the hard stuff. It helps us feel less alone. Maybe I need more comedy and happy books about dogs, but the dogs die in the end and Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp was a sad little dude.

    I look forward to your memoir pieces, Patti. It helps me know you.

    • I also love all the titles that you cited. Yes, less alone. To know that we most likely will not die from our broken hearts, even if we feel a twinge of wanting to.
      I do read happier books too. They don’t engage my mind, but they make my heart happy. I didn’t use to enjoy happy endings near as much as I do now.
      Thanks for reading, commenting and just being here, Elaine.
      P

  4. Memoir writing is difficult for several reasons: The writer experiences all the emotion over again + the memoir must read like a novel, not a biography. You are fortunate in having kept a journal to preserve all of that hard-to-recall detail.

    Great idea: Reserving a specific time on your blog schedule for memoir. All the best!

    • Thanks for your input, Marian. I have tons of material, but putting it together to read like a “novel” is the catch.
      Later, I hope to feature, interview and/or add links to other memoir writers. Keep a slot on your dance card open 🙂
      P

  5. So sad reading your memoir Patti and realising how closely the online posts echoed my own for Julia. So full of hope only to have those hopes crushed. It’s a very long, slow climb back to some kind of normality from there. We did it though and I applaud you for being able to live through it all again as you write about it. I know tears will flow.
    Sending you Massive Hugs xxx

    • Thank you, David and I’m accepting those hugs. I know it has been a hard year for you, but you always seem to manage to make everyone smile. We are both lucky– you have your Reuben and I have my little grands. I just ran over and caught up with you for a bit. Loved my visit, as usual. Take care & lots of hugs 🙂
      P

  6. Good for you, Patti! I am so glad to see you doing these Memoir Mondays. You were musing about the why of reading memoirs with depressing topics. For me, I think it’s seeing the story through to the end and seeing how the protagonist comes out the other side.

  7. Thanks for sharing a bit of your life, Patti. I think memoir writing can be a powerful form of catharsis… for both the writer and the reader. –Curt

    • Sorry I missed this when you posted it, Curt! Thank you for stopping by and adding to the conversation. My main intention with the memoir is to let people on a similar path know that they are not alone, and to offer some ideas of how to make a medical crisis not quite so difficult.
      Catharsis is icing on the cake 🙂
      P

  8. Thank you for sharing this, Patti. Your courage and strength will definitely serve as an inspiration to others.

    • Welcome, Miranda! I apologize for missing your comment. I rarely do, but this time I missed you and Curt. I truly appreciate your joining in here and a big thanks for the kind words.
      P

  9. Hi, Patti! Great to discover you once again! Can’t wait to read your Memoir Mondays. I agree, writing memoir is sooo difficult- the writer’s thoughts and feelings have to unfold with the story, revealing something larger.
    x

    • You’ve done a lot on your house since I last visited your blog! Glad to rediscover each other. Your writing is wonderful. I’ve learned a lot about memoir in the last year, enough to know I have a lot of work to do. Plugging along 🙂 Glad you are back.
      P

  10. Great writing Patti – raw and real. Thank you. No doubt a re-living of it as you check out those journal writings?

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