Saturday, January 30, 2016

Writing My Story: A Sort of Introduction

 By Diana C. White

Writing my story started getting to be a serious assignment after certain visits to my children in 2011, who said, meaningfully, “Mama, you know you need to do this. When are you going to start?”
They had been sent copies of Uncle Bob’s 100th Birthday gift to his family and friends.

Uncle Bob is my mother's youngest brother, and the last of that sibship; he made it to 104 and a bit past the birthday, and had begun to decline in physical strength sometime within the years past 100. He stayed sharp until the last few months. He told me on Labor Day weekend 2014, when he really could not make it to the Family Reunion but was very much up for visits and family time in small doses, “Diana, honey, my forgetery works overtime and my remembery sometimes doesn't work well at all.” And indeed, he did tell you some things twice in the same conversation, but old memories and stories were clear and true. Until the last visit in 2015, again on a Labor Day/Capps Reunion weekend,
when he was getting noticeably frailer and less present, he had always been the most alive and "up­ for­ it" visit in my family list.

After retirement from Buick, Uncle Bob and Muriel had bought a home in the country, in the southern  part of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, not far from the South Carolina border, near my cousins Bob and Mattie – and not that far from the old home
place where Uncle Bob had grown up. For years their home on Watermelon Lane was the gathering place for birthdays (Oh, the Cappses loved birthdays!) and get-­togethers, and Bob and Muriel always hosted the Labor Day weekend family reunions until Bob and Mattie were asked to take it on in their turn. A few years further on, sometime in the early 2000s, Bob and Muriel moved into a retirement home, The Laurels, in Pineville, NC,
where they lived for their last several years.

Muriel died in 2008. Uncle Bob continued, going strong. And he was a story­teller!  As he began to show a little more physical decline, having passed his 104th, we planned for a visit as though it were a regular Capps Labor Day reunion, pretending that it was an ordinary visit.  Indeed he died a very few weeks later, on September 21, 2015.

So Ivan and I went to Charlotte and stayed with Bob and Mattie for the annual Capps Get­-Together and Picnic and general hoo­hah on Labor Day weekend 2015. Chiefly, I went to get
in what I thought might be my last visit with Uncle Bob. Mattie and I kept in touch, and Sue had been in touch often over the summer. We all knew, even Uncle Bob could not go on forever. And
my last visit with Uncle Bob, we had a wonderful time! But then, we always did.

I knew to go early in the day; the common name is Sundowners' Syndrome, meaning the later in the day, the more likely you are to encounter confusion and a bit of cognitive slippage, so
get visits in early in the day. I went mid­morning and had a good walk down the memories, well- companioned, remembering old days. He kept telling me how proud they all were of my good
brain and how I'd used it! We had a fun time, swapping stories. It has never taken much, I just lean forward and say something like, “Uncle Bob, you remember that time my mother wore
her new dress, and in spite of Grand Mamma's reminders, jumped off the tractor and it caught and tore it hem to collar?" And we'd be off. Cappses are all good story­tellers. I'd get three stories and
eight names and backgrounds for every memory I touched on! I'm so grateful to have had that last good visit.

I grew up listening to stories, first, my Mama's when I was a child; our favorite afternoon quiet time was to ask Mama to tell us about when she was a little girl in the country, and off she'd go! So I got used to priming my elders, and sitting back and
reveling in their stories.

My children evidently considered that as an elderly person in the Capps lineage, I had an obligation to contribute to the ongoing  story, and to write it down like Uncle Bob did.


(This is the first of  several posts from Diana C. White's "Family History" in progress. This project of hers is something I believe we ALL ought to be doing.  How wonderful it would be if our parents and grandparents had done it!  Of course, life was a lot harder back then.  And the reason most of us aren't doing it is because.......uh, because....well, there's TV, Golf, Bingo, Cards, Golf, ...........important stuff like that.