Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Interviewing Elsie: tender times

This is a particularly tender time ~ visiting here in Bradenton, Florida with my friend Elsie who now lives in an assisted living facility. This afternoon Barb, Mr. Myrt and I met with Elsie and it is obvious I've got to switch gears when it comes to doing our book about Elsie's Red Cross and civilian US Army employment during WWII.

At 92, Elsie has some memory loss, as do many folks her age. Though our visit was obviously tiring for her, Elsie was as ever, supportive and positive.

To say today's visit was emotional for me would be an understatement.

Thinking about this during the drive back to our friend Jody's condo, it occurs to me that many of my DearREADERS are facing just such challenges. Attempting to follow the advice to interview your eldest living relatives can get complicated can't it? Elsie is like family to me. Good friends are like that.

Where once we could work quickly together on a project, things have slowed down and there is no rushing the process with wonderful, elderly folks like Elsie. Advice from Kimberly Powell of is found in 50 Questions for Family History Interviews. Indeed, Ol' Myrt here has written many times on the topic. But this interview process is real and personal, and I find myself at a bit of a loss as to where to begin without pushing Elsie to the limits of her memory.

And the emotion of recognizing how short our time together for the project, really brings me to tears.

I'm resolved to create a timeline of Elsie's life when we visit tomorrow. Much can be gleaned from the spines of her notebooks, which are clearly labeled England 1944-1945, France, Japan & Korea. If that is all I can accomplish tomorrow, so be it.

Tenderness will be my watchword.

As experienced as Ol' Myrt here may think she is when it comes to talking with anyone about anything, this visit with my dear friend Elsie is a tender challenge.

How did my DearREADERs manage such tender interviews?

Am I just getting to be an old sap?

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt     :)
Your friend in genealogy.


  1. DearMyrt, I applaud you for your concern with a kind approach to writing a memoir, life story, for your friend. A timeline is a terrific way to go, both outline and memory jogger. (I'm trying to do one for myself.)My LDS friends who have kept journals for years, are way ahead on their timeline and memoir efforts. Perhaps you will share your experiences with Elsie by writing about timelines as outlines for a life story. Myrt, you are showing your love by just being there and talking with Elsie; your time is the most precious gift you can give her. Cheers, Dolly in Maryland

  2. DearMyrt, I am in the same boat with my mother and at a loss as to how to go about getting an outline together. Your timeline idea is brilliant (and so obvious I can't believe it didn't occur to me)!

    You are so right that tenderness and care are the watchwords. And no you are not getting to be an old sap just a thoughtful and very caring friend!

    I look forward to reading more on your experience, partly because it will help with the road I am travelling.

  3. DearSUE writes via email (used with permission:

    "I know what you mean about this tender interview. Last year I had the opportunity to visit my 99 year old cousin and her 100 year old husband. I asked if I could record them and showed how my very tiny iPod mic worked. They were enchanted with what it could do, especially when I recorded each of them saying a few words and then let them listen. I ended up with four or five short sequences of whatever they wanted to say (I did ask about relatives and about special times in their lives). It was delightful! My cousin's husband has since died and I'm so happy to have that little piece of his history."