The Gift of Time

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I hate reporting this, but I’ve made little actual progress on Emmett’s manuscript since January.

My life has been mostly on hold because I’ve had to take several trips to my hometown in Mississippi to get my Dad’s affairs in order. He’s been in rehab after his fall in January, so he hasn’t been able to do beyond his hospital room.

But as of yesterday, Dad is out of the hospital and I completed the move from his home of 32 years into a retirement community. It’s done.

Finally.

Looking back, I’m surprised at how much time this whole project took. What really helped was good, old fashioned research skills.  In January, to keep myself from going crazy with all the details from 850 miles away, I created a set of “Dad spreadsheets” relating to the move. I categorized everything: Utilities, furniture distribution, contributions to charity, packing, social workers, you name it. As we drew closer to the actual move date, it was the most satisfying thing to check off items as they were completed. It made the whole process run like clockwork.

Also: The spreadsheets made the move understandable, more acceptable for my Dad. Whenever he’d get nervous or antsy, I’d just give Dad the move-related file folders and charts, and the logical, ordered information calmed him down. Helped him accept the change that was happening, whether he liked it or not.

These simple charts made our lives a lot easier. In the end, Dad didn’t argue with me about the move anymore. And the day before the move, Dad was (finally) more accepting. He told me: “I’m good with this. You’ve obviously got this in hand.”

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Constructing Emmett’s story has also taken a lot of time — five years, so far. The time involved in collecting the data is one thing; but it takes almost as long (if not longer) to organize seemingly disparate pieces into a logical, detailed timeline of events, and unfortunately, I underestimated that part of the research process. Here again, spreadsheets to the rescue. To keep myself from going insane with the (literally) thousands of pieces of Emmett information, I created something I call “Emmett’s Life Timeline” in spreadsheet.

I use a basic spreadsheet program with my own headings. Information is organized by year.

In addition to Emmett-specific information is context: I’ve added the comings/goings/activities of who I believe are the important people in his life within the same spreadsheets.

Another example from “Emmett’s Life Timeline” spreadsheets.

Now that things have settled down, I’m happy and grateful to return to Emmett’s story.

Both of these transitions (Dad from house to assisted living and Emmett from obscurity to research) have taken more time than I expected. But the extended time has been a benefit — a gift, really, in both instances. I feel pretty good about how Dad’s situation turned out (even though he’s still in adjustment mode). I also feel good about the status of Emmett’s story, even though it isn’t finished. Both projects are coming together — maybe not seamlessly — but they are falling into proper place.

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