You could say my first motivation in writing my memoir Entering the Blue Stone was selfish. The bookis an account of my parents’ final years, when my siblings and I had to move them from their home to an independent living apartment in a continuing care facility, then to the assisted living wing, and finally to the nursing home on the bottom floor. A pretty common experience nowadays, but it feels extraordinary when it happens to you, a cross between a comedy of errors, a crusade for humane treatment, and, of course, a prolonged funeral. In order to maintain my sanity, I transcribed events almost as they were happening, including conversations verbatim. I was coping with the chaos by keeping notes–containing it in words.
But I was also trying to glean something constructive from the wreckage—from these notes, I would be able to craft a cautionary tale that others might find helpful. That line of thinking I inherited from my father—he always taught that the way to redeem yourself after a mistake was to analyze what happened and make sure you never slipped up again. Where your parents’ end-of-life is concerned, you don’t get a second chance, but I hoped that in publicly telling their story, I might smooth the path for others.
I’m a writer, a story-teller, not a statistician, psychologist, or physician, and I believe that a boots-on-the-ground, anecdotal approach communicates information far more powerfully than some sort of abstract power point presentation. Stories lodge in the memory; they bring human beings to life in a nuanced, three-dimensional world; they illustrate cause and effect. Perhaps most important, in fully portraying the challenges and struggles that come with being human, they assure us that we aren’t alone.
So when my siblings and I were thrown into a vortex of incredulity, panic and pain; when the situation was plummeting from difficult to impossible; when it felt like the end of the world, I kept a record step by step of our search for a care facility and then our adaptation to one frustration after the next–the scenes, the dialogue, the unexpected sweet times, the inevitable bad. Because the circumstances were so surreal, I wanted to create an almost documentary tone in recounting them. No hysteria, no exclamatory outrage—just the facts. They would speak for themselves. And if my book begins as an account of what-not-to-do, by the end, there come insights that have enriched my life ever since.
Find out more about Entering the Blue Stone and other memoirs on the Fuze Publishing website http://www.fuzepublishing.com. There you can sign up to receive a weekly newsletter that includes news about the publishing industry as well as my tips for strong writing—Tapping the Muze.
Air Force brat Molly Best Tinsley taught on the civilian faculty at the United States Naval Academy for twenty years and is the institution’s first professor emerita. Author of My Life with Darwin (Houghton Mifflin) and Throwing Knives (Ohio State University Press), she also co-authored Satan’s Chamber (Fuze Publishing) and the textbook, TheCreative Process (St. Martin’s). Her fiction has earned two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sandstone Prize, and the Oregon Book Award. Her plays have been read and produced nationwide. She lives in Oregon, where she divides her time between Ashland and Portland.