My cousin age ninety was too tired to go outside and hoe weeds, her usual and preferred activity. So, instead she was reading old papers. These happened to be the personal journals of her father, written some eighty years ago.
It is a miracle that these papers survive, since most families move regularly, and fires and floods take their toll on our possessions, and especially our memoirs. But here they were. Written by him, to himself, long ago.
Just whom was he writing for? Certainly for himself, for they contained lots of inspirational slogans meant to help him better himself. “Think tall, walk tall, talk tall, stand tall.” And dietary advice, “Cold peanuts daily at 4 pm.”
And they contained very personal observations about his sexual needs and desires. They were not meant for other family members, especially not his daughter.
Yet, here they were eighty years later, telling his daughter about himself, helping her understand him. But she felt they were still personal matters, even now, so she discarded them, meaning for them to be destroyed.
When I heard what she was doing I pleaded with her to stop. Save them. They are irreplaceable documents. They tell about him, and people like him, in that era. How he felt, secretly. She retrieved them.
Now what? He has unknowingly confided in us. What would he want done with the papers? Does it matter what he would want done, he is not around to be embarrassed, nor can he object? If he really did NOT want to communicate, why did he write them? Was he subconsciously writing for future generations? Was this a secret autobiography? If the answer is no, then back into the trash with them, but if the answer is yes, then what should she do with them?
Should she seek a historian or historical society to accept and preserve them? Should she archive them herself? Should she simply replace them with other family history and let her heirs make the decision? She feels that most family papers will simply be destroyed when she dies.
There seems to be no clear-cut answer, and that makes me wonder about my journals and, in fact, all our blogs. For whom are we writing ? Are they addressed to future generations? How long will they last? They are merely magnetized infinitesimal bits of iron residing were only AOL knows. Will they last when our membership runs out? When AOL merges with the next giant corporation will our blogs live on? How long? For whom are they being saved? Who will read them? Will they be around in eighty years? Perhaps some cataclysmic power surge will erase them all at once. Or will some future relative have to decide whether to trash our communications.