Half a century ago, my Uncle Walter wrote a book, an autobiography. I acquired a copy of a late draft in the course of helping my cousin, Uncle Walter's son Rawd, to organize his family archives. There were many drafts; we tried to discern which was the most complete. Aunt Mary had typed the drafts, and then retyped them to incorporate each successive round of revisions. The draft I transcribed also had many revisions, and I did what I could to include them in my transcription.
Family stories of whatever nature - oral histories, anecdotes, songs, poetry, family trees - can be lost if they are not put into some accessible form and made available to the immediate and extended family in some manner. It has been my task in my retirement to search out these family stories and work on making them accessible. The task is self-assigned, yet somehow there seems to be an external force pulling me into doing this - sometimes the stories seem to be calling out to me. Surely this is my imagination, yet I continue to respond to the calls, and I continue to see the need for family stories to be made accessible.
This is all the more important - and at the same time more difficult - when the people who might help me to interpret the words before me are no longer here, and I am left with the necessity of making decisions about explanations, inclusions and exclusions on my own. Uncle Walter was a thoughtful man, living much in his head. He saw himself as an inadequate wretch - his own words - and yet he became a respected lawyer and Queen's Counsel, and in the later part of his legal career, mayor for several terms of a town in Saskatchewan. His book stops before these events occur, so what he would have written of his successes we cannot know but it seems to me that he was haunted by the impostor syndrome, a condition in which the highly successful sufferer thinks, "If they all knew what I REALLY am, they would not respect and admire me."
It is going to be an interesting process, going back to the book I transcribed several years ago and preparing it for printing - proofreading, formatting, indexing. I had thought that I would do this with the help of my cousins, his children, Marianne and Rawd, but within the last year both have died, in their fifties, of cancer. They "should have died hereafter." Shakespeare always has a relevant phrase.
I will probably write of it again as I return to the work on Uncle Walter's book. It seems to me there will be a lot to say.