Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Notemaker


The Notemaker

I have told you before
that I am a note maker
 a list writer
It is a trait
that I have inherited 
from my Father

His house, his shelves
cupboards, sheds, 
his car, writing room
and pockets
are full of notes and lists
all written in capitalized font
in an odd left handed 
and backwards sloping script

Lists of seedlings to buy
of bills to pay
of accounts falling due
of flowers to plant
typing to correct
of vegetable planting rows
of editing to complete
in the stories he wrote
of insurance policies and investments
bank accounts and secrets

As he got older
he began to copy the lists
marking the old lists 'obsolete'
but never destroying them
Then he made lists of lists
and lists of lists of lists
and bound them together in bundles
with rubber bands

One list I found was headed
'Jock's Important Concerns'
and indicated a secret place
where more lists could be found
My Mother and I laughed 
as we rushed around the house
like we were playing detectives...

When I was a child
the lists were written 
on dirt and grease stained used index cards
purloined from his work place
After retirement 
they began to be written 
on old envelopes
of which he accumulated 
an enormous stash

When looking through the pockets
of jackets returned from the nursing home
where he had spent 
the last year of his life
I came across many notes and lists;
I found numerous notes 
detailing the neighbour's
address and phone number
in case my Father should forget 
where he was heading 
on his many escapes 
from the nursing home
and needed to be rescued

In one pocket I found a list
of his three daughters 
with their names written out in full
sadly dementia was beginning to rob him
of his memory of things
that were most important to him

One of the oddest lists I found
was of the serial numbers 
of his three wheelie garbage bins,
Red for rubbish
Yellow for recyclables
and Green for green waste
Did he worry that the local students
might steal his bins
and if so
was he going to track them down...
quite probably...

I must warn my kids
of my list making tendencies
and prepare them for my dotage
If I am at all like my father
in this respect
and there is increasing evidence
of this proclivity
I will have filled every nook and cranny
of the house with notes and lists...

I must write a note now
to tell my kids of this...



  1. I remember going through my mother's things with my siblings after she passed. We were amazed at the things she kept. Every gift tag from every gift she ever received. Every card she ever got. Every letter we wrote to her in our entire lives. I have a stack of mine...letters from summer camp, from the weeks I spent with my aunt in the summer, letters from college tied up with a ribbon. The 'purses' I made out of construction paper with their contents. I even remember making those when I was a child.

    We shook our heads at the things she chose to keep. As I imagine my own children will do when I pass, but perhaps I will go through it all myself before.

  2. What a wonderful remembrance of your father and his penchant for lists. It is most endearing. Thank you for sharing. My husband has Altzeimers now but he cannot write or speak so there will be nothing so precious afterwards. But I will remember.

  3. Your father tried so hard to remember everything!

  4. What a delightful post.

    I make lots of lists too, but I don't keep the old ones at least. I am constantly buying blank notepads for this habit.

  5. I'm sure you treasure all the lists he made, especially the names of you and your sisters. I have the paper on which my dad wrote his last words, asking for water, while in the hospital.

    I have so many notebooks and journals, plus a file cabinet, which have notes, poems, quotes and cute things my grandchildren have said, just things I don't want to forget.

    Your dad was a dear man, I feel like I have met him, through your posts, Delwyn.


  6. I know how precious these lists will be to you, Delwyn. Written in your dad's own hand, they are reminders, orderly messages, extensions of the man himself. They are treasures.

  7. Oh my heart...

    These last two posts brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye, Delwyn. So beautiful, and so heartfelt, yet with a lightness of touch that I marvel at. I am new here and I am guessing he passed away recently?

    I agree with Martin, these are treasures, such precious treasures. But I think you know that. :-)

    In particular the photo in the previous post of his wellies just broke my heart. So poignant.

    And thank you for your sweet comment over on mine. C x

  8. Hi Ellen

    Fortunately one of my sisters had a good clean out of my Mother's drawers that collect all those items. She also sorted through 60 years of photos so that when Mum does eventually leave the family home it won't be a huge task. As for Dad's notes it will take some sorting...and as for the sheds...well that may take weeks...

    happy days

  9. Hello Bernie

    It is nice to meet yo and have you pop in for a chat. You are my Mother's age and I cannot imagine her blogging. I am impressed...I am sorry that your husband has Alzheimer's disease. You must feel that you have lost a part of him.

    happy days

  10. Hi Jeanette

    He did Jeanette but he had always written the notes and lists...all his life, but maybe not duplicate like we found.

    I love to do the same but prefer journals to contain all of my thoughts.

    happy days

  11. Hi Amy

    I have recently collaged a number of books for journals and what I call day books where I keep all of the notes and lists instead of on little bits of paper. I find that it works very well and is always there as a reference too. I tart them up with photos and pictures and quotes as I go and enter any relevant musings and things I might make use of in the future...
    It is also a good place to copy those great quotes you see people posting, or a book that is reviewed, or an artist you may want to look up....

    happy days little leprechaun

  12. Hi Wanda

    I am very much like you in that regard. I have oodles of treasures from the four kids childhoods and all my own journals and ramblings and collections of poems and pictures, plus the collage materials and written matter...I love to be surrounded with all this ephemera and collections of the past.

    thanks for your thoughtful words Wanda

  13. Hi Martin

    I have already glued some into my current journal and will have a good sort through the house when I am next in NZ. In this electronic age it is going to be important for us to keep written material and memorabilia for our future generations. They may not be interested now but when they are our age they may feel as we do.

    happy days

  14. Hi Ciara

    That's funny when I came across your post in my reader page I felt that we had made contact previously...well anyway it is nice to have your company now and I enjoyed your comments. Yes my Dad sailed off last I have been over in New Zealand with family.

    happy days

  15. Oh dear,I see clearly how wonderful piece of art you can make of this precious handwritten notes and lists,if not art than a little jewel to hold on for a while as a memory of your dad,cause he managed to go true his last days on Earth on this beautiful way.To live with someone loosing his memory is one of the hardest things to live with,I think.Much love and strength to your mom.I wish you all much love and strength for coming time,
    happy days darling!

  16. Hi Aleks

    thank you again for your kind thoughts and wishes. You are a thoughtful soul.

    These notes will be something that I cherish and even make art from - perhaps a collage with his drawings and photos...Dementia is both a curse and a forgets short term but also one stops worrying and fretting over things that can no longer be accomplished.
    One of dad's constant concerns right up almost to the end was to get to the bank...heavens knows why...He told me the Bank of America was transferring funds to him!!! If only...

    happy days

  17. I make "to do" lists but on my ipod touch. Then I only have to remember where to find it.

    Electronics robs us of the personal touch though, seeing the notes in your father's own hand.

  18. hello delwyn - i write stickie notes and that way i can hold onto the "need" - whatever it might be - to get something done. otherwise there's a chance it will slip away. as the school year progresses i make master notes leading to the other notes. mine aren't quite as detailed as your dads. but having them there no doubt made his life run much more smoothly!! steven

  19. of your last 2 posts, i can only say, 'wow'...and also so sorry for your loss, while thankful of the fond memories. toodles.

  20. The notion of collaging these lists is very good--I am married to an inveterate list keeper & I do think the lists comprise something important about the list maker!

  21. What a beautiful and loving tribute to your father. I found myself smiling, felt my eyes wanting to mist over. If only there were a way to turn these lists into a book, with narrative between lists/groups of lists. How beautiful that would be!

  22. I am truly enjoying getting to know your father in this way Delwyn! He is a story within a story I think :) I find such notes all over my mother's house... and she sets up to 3 alarm clocks forgetting which one she set the first time... I can see you going room to room, finding notes and retracing the very steps of your father. I am continuing to think of you. I am so honored you are sharing your father with all of us in this way :)

  23. This makes me feel that I knew your father, and liked him. Thank you. My mother kept her lists in notebooks, and I keep finding more of them, starting from before I was born to shortly before her death, some 48 years. They are very precious to me.

  24. what a beautiful prose poem, it made me smile--i used to be the same way with schedules, i had my day scheduled down to 15 minutes, schedules and rewrites of schedules everywhere, because each time i fell off a 15 minute mark, i had to start again.
    thankfully, no more, haha.
    but i still find them in corners. this post really did it for me, i loved it.

  25. Hi Barry

    You are a man of the age...I have an iphone but rarely use it for anything other than the odd call. However it was very useful when we moved until the wifi was hooked up and also when in NZ I can access my emails and blog if I want.
    There is nothing as poignant and stirring as a note from the past. I found one my Dad's brother had written before he went off the war at 20 and never returned..

    happy days

  26. Hi Steven

    He was always a note maker so we didn't notice a change until I see the content of some of the latter ones and the repetitions...

    happy days

  27. Thank you Tom. I am so touched by the kind words of my stranger/friends in the blog world....

    Happy days

  28. Hi John

    I am thinking along the collage lines. When I next go to NZ I will gather a set of notes and lists together. Freud or Jung would say that our notes tell an awful lot about our personalities and our deeper selves.

    When I was studying counselling I went to a Freudian therapist as an exercise in familiarising myself with the trade so to speak. I happened to mention my Dad's habit of flushing his pay slip down the loo and and he quickly replied...well what does that say about his sex life! ? ! ?

    happy days

  29. Hi Kittie

    thanks for dropping by. I will in the future gather some together in some form. I have many photos that they could serve as text for.

    Happy days

  30. Hi Vicky

    I have to confess that when setting out for an international flight I like to have two alarms set if there is an early start like one recently when I had to rise at 3am....not that I slept soundly anyway....

    And yes my Mum keeps notes too, of her day's activities and important reminders. And the ones that say things like ...Take soup out of Freezer....

    Happy days Vicky

  31. Hello Marsh

    It is nice to have you over. Have I met you before...I don't know and I can't seem to access your blog. Are you blogging these days?

    Anyway, thank you for calling by. When I began blogging after a very industrious year of postcard making one of my daughters said in an exasperated tone ...and what do you think we are going to do with all this stuff when you die!...implying that is was all junk bound for the tip...maybe she will change her tune as she has her family and grows older....

    happy days

  32. Hi Zoe

    now you were very regimented and conscientious at that time. I am glad you have eased up on yourself.

    As I get older, with less to do, no empire to create, no family to raise any more I am just loving the lack of schedule. I do have gym classes and a little work to go to but if I didn't feel like it I don't do it...such a great freedom to have...thank you aging....

    Happy days Zoe

  33. My mother was a list and note maker, too. She also wrote on used envelopes and scraps of torn paper. I still have some of them. When I see her looping curlicued script, my heart melts and I miss her. Who would have thought such items would bring so many fond memories of the way a person lived a life?

  34. Hi Barb

    now I wonder where you are posting from today?

    The notes are more than scribbles on paper aren't they. They are an imprint of the person who wrote them and carry with them their energy and many many memories - whole lifetime's worth in the case of a parent.

    Happy days

  35. Actually, I think we did! I was wondering why it seemed familiar. Well, you are on my blogroll now so I won't lose you again. C x

  36. There is so much beautiful purpose to this post in terms of processing and celebrating a life, a death, a relationship. It makes me see how deep the potential for blogging really can be.

    Blessings to you as you move through your process.

  37. Hi Delwyn, The reference to the wheelie bins gave me a good laugh -inspiration for a painting??

  38. Hi Polly

    I toyed with the idea of self disclosure in regard to my dad but felt that his life and his bearing on my life were too important to exclude from my blogging life.

    happy days

  39. Hi Noela

    Its nice to have a visitor from with a cooee's distance...

    the wheelie bins are all yours...

    Happy days


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