Back in the old days of America, families kept histories of their lives, perhaps not in formal formats but in collections of letters, notes in the big old family bible. With keepsakes that told a story, with brown sepia-toned photos or perhaps if the family had an artist, drawings. My family had musical instruments (I remember trying to figure out how to play that old banjo in the attic) including a player piano where the six of us would sometimes gather and sing along with the paper rolls which played the piano.
But formal letter writing seems to have diminished of late, probably thanks to the fact that computers and the Internet make it so much easier to communicate. Easier, yes, but lost with a flick of the mouse and relegated to the trash bin.
Happily, there seems to be a wave of interest, including seniors, in scrapbooks, including classes on how to put them together. There also seems to be an awakening to the value of personal memoirs.
And for seniors, such collections can help keep families and traditions alive. Our pioneers recognized the importance of knowing about the past and one way or another they sought to keep family histories alive and well.
Well, writing an autobiography is easier now than ever. Again, computers may have reduced actual letter writing, but at the same time they make writing ones personal history easier. With a computer in the home, seniors can sit down at any time during the day and click off a few hundred words of memory. You don't need the Internet except for looking up place names or time periods; you can just let your memory roam.
And with computers you don't have to follow a strict time sequence. Write about high school, sports experiences, love affairs, old friends, family events. With computers you can insert items anywhere along the time line. You recall that first date well into your writing, and you insert it back when. And maybe you try to contact that date - whatever happened to her?
(An aside, I recently stumbled across the name of my college sweetheart on the net and contacted her - and the memories flowed like the beer we used to drink.)
So getting started may be a problem.
That's easy: "I was born in Columbus, Ohio, on March 22, 1938, to mom and dad." Not the most original opening, but you're not worried about writing a great American novel. You just want to get started on that family history. Starting at the beginning of you life is a good springboard.
And then you can just peck away or really type if you know how. When I'm working on a new novel I schedule two hours a day, no matter in the mood or not. I think it is important to set a schedule - not one that demands more of your time than is comfortable.
OK, so you don't have a computer and don't want to buy one, despite how cheap rebuild ones at the Computer Corps in Carson City. You can be up and running for $150, no need for the Internet.
Drop in on the Senior Citizens Center off Long Street and ask the front desk how one learns to use the in-house computers. You'll find out when a class will get you started, and there are plenty of computers sitting around waiting for you. A few simple instructions and a CD disk can be used to store your story. Pop it in the computer and get started or pick up where you left off.
For seniors it's a way to leave something of yourself behind for descendants, to tell them of their history, how they came to be who they are today.
Family members die, and with each passing something is lost. So you can include stories about sisters, brothers, whoever. It's all connected, as the Buddhist people keep saying.
More on X-C ski fun
If I aroused your interest in cross country skiing for seniors, you might want to check the Heavenly Ski Swap Nov. 14-17 at the resort's Foundation Building across from the Heavenly Tram at the resort base in California. Registration of goods for sale are 3-6 p.m. Wednesday. Lots of good X-C gear to be sold at bargain prices as well as ski clothing of all kinds. Actual swap days are 6-11 p.m. Friday (admission $5) and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free.
• Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.