Unless he can find a collaborator, it seems likely that Dad’s days of writing math are done. “Why not write your memoirs?” I asked. “No one would be interested in that,” he replied. But then he launched in to telling me a story from his youth. I took notes.
I’m reading a delightful book called The Memoir Project. It talks about how the interesting stories in memoirs are inspired by simple things. Things like ice cream. Personal quirks like reading obits. First memories are good. What did you wear can be interesting.
I shared some of this with my friend Sherry. She didn’t need a book or an expert to tell her how to get that thread going. When her father was still alive, she sat at the table with him and turned on a recorder. She got him talking by asking simple questions like: “What did you have for breakfast when you were a child?” She made it into a book for family.
I don’t know if my 95 year-old father’s memoirs will find their way into a book. If they do, it is very unlikely to be a New York Times Best Seller. Who knows? I wouldn’t rule it out. But who cares? The process of collecting the memories is priceless.
(All this said, I just got a call from a mathematician who has an idea for collaborating with my father. Funny how life works!)