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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Memories are made of living

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute members are, by definition, seniorsor elders if you prefer. It was natural that many of those with a penchant for writing gravitated to a course in writing memoirs given by Carter Jefferson. Recognizing the many questions we neglected to ask our own parents and grandparents, this group decided to write down what they remembered before it was gone forever. 

Carter gave us good guidelines for telling our stories—for instance, scenes with plenty of detail and dialogue. After Carter retired, several students started a Special Interest Group for Writers in 2013. Before the pandemic, we met on campus every other Wednesday. When we switched to Zoom, we decided to meet every week, since we had very little on our social calendars. 

Our critiques were positive to start but could veer to picky punctuation feedback. Sometimes members gave suggestions that the author was free to think over or disregard. We shared what we liked about pieces and what wasn’t clear or could have been better. At the end of the meetings we had things to think about, some of which made our writing much stronger. We enjoyed our time together. 

In the course of almost twenty years, our members have published several books. Roz Cuschera’s book, “Journey from San Rocco,” was based on her family’s emigration from Italy and their concerns after they arrived. Helen Batisteknown to us in the writers’ group for her gory, riveting and often hilarious crime short storiespublished “Tears, Fright, Laughter and Wonder.” Kate Flaherty took seven years to write a memoir titled, “More Alike Than Different” about her two years in the swamps of Borneo as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the late ‘60s. Kim Lan Tran published “Traveling in a Dream and Other Stories,” which tells of her life in Vietnam and her adventures here teaching English to Vietnamese and Vietnamese to students who wanted to recapture their language. Other writers have been published in magazines and won prizes. 

Even the recent past vanishes quickly. Ellen, a retired special education teacher, writes about teaching and has taped discussions with her father to write about his life. She has been journaling since second grade, and is reminding us how fast the past can disappear with journals written during the pandemic. In February 2021, she and her husband spent hours on the computer trying to get an appointment for the vaccine and taking care of their personal banking business during the pandemic. 

Some members were unable to Zoom or developed health issues. Helga no longer attends with her tales of growing up in Norway under German occupation. Some members write of their travels and some of their family history. Some write fiction and some do poetry. We all agree that the Writers’ Group helped keep us sane during the isolation of the pandemic. We have lost loved ones and dealt with chemotherapy, passed milestone birthdays and greeted grandchildren or new puppies. 

Writing is therapeutic. I’d advise anyone who still has parents or grandparents to sit them down and record their experiences. From the kaleidoscopic vision of the future, the simplest things can seem like adventures, and they can be lost so easily. Good luck hunting through your family stories.