Anyone who follows me on social media knows I took on a huge task this year. I mean, massive task.
My grandfather spent years of his life writing his memoirs. Using his casino souvenir pens, he wrote out his story on over 150 pages of yellow graph paper, which he stored in his wooden writing lap desk. His penmanship, while beautiful, was small and at times very difficult to read. My father asked me years ago to type them up so he can read them. Life got away from me and I procrastinated from taking on the task until this year. I really wanted to give them to my dad for Christmas this year, so I dove in head first.
To complete the project, I had to create a gameplan. Reading his small penmanship was exhausting and some of the stories were emotionally taxing. To ensure I finished by my deadline, I put together a working schedule, dedicating hours on Monday and Thursday nights to transcribing. However, the bulk of my work was done on Sunday mornings. Typically, my Sundays looked like this.
Being a lover of history, I wanted to ensure his story was told. This meant transcribing precisely as he wrote – poor spelling and grammar included. He was a product of his time and as frustrating as it can be to trudge through “bad writing”, it was beautiful to see him for who he was.
My grandfather passed away when I was 12 years old and I was excited to learn more about who he was as a person – not the caricature of a grandfather I had stored in my memory. What I found was so much more extraordinary than I had expected. Some of his stories were incredibly entertaining (i.e. my grand-grandmother chasing someone with a broom) and suspenseful (i.e. a number of brawls). Others were downright concerning (i.e. he didn’t like champagne) or terrifying (i.e. he almost lost an arm as a child).
Some stories, particularly the chapters about his first few months in the army, required liquid reinforcements.
However, I enjoyed growing to know him through the most intimate of forms. I learned more from his writing than I did from his words. His tone perfectly matched his speaking cadence. At times, I could hear his voice in my head, reading the words to me. He struggled to spell and very rarely applied the punctuation rules of dialogue correctly. “Suprised” and “surprised” both appeared in his writing. He forced me to type out words I would never dream of saying aloud and challenged me to become familiar with military terminology, which was such a part of his world he very rarely felt inclined to explain. His penmanship was enviable one day and a clear struggle for him the next, usually depending on the subject matter and the level of anxiety he had with the story. He was a man of his times and his education – and I adore him.
A wave of sadness came over me when I finally finished transcribing in mid-November. Spending Sundays with Grandpa’s story had become a welcomed and anticipated part of my routine. I had to shift gears into project completion and it was emotionally jarring. All good things come to an end and though I wanted more stories from my grandpa, I had to come back to the real world and my original goal.
I secretly contacted family members to collect old pictures of my grandfather.
*Thank you again to everyone who helped me. You have no idea how much it meant!*
What I didn’t tell anyone was my ultimate goal was to publish my grandfather’s memoirs into a real book. I had found a distribution company called Lulu.com that did it affordably and decided to give it a shot. After hours and hours of formatting the typed memoirs into their template, inserting pages, fixing headers and footers, designing a cover and triple checking everything, I sent off the manuscript to be print just in the knick of time.
The first printed, hardback edition arrived to my doorstep and you better believe I broke down in tears. I did it. I finally finished Grandpa’s memoirs and it was perfect.
Thankfully, I only had to wait a few days to give it to my dad for Christmas. We were celebrating early with the family and I was so grateful to not have to keep the secret much longer. My dad was handed his white and silver wrapped gift. I could tell by the look on his face that he had no idea what was inside. My mom and my cousin, the only two privy to my plan, looked on with giant smiles on their faces. I sat in deep anticipation, not breathing. As he popped open the box and pulled away the tissue, I saw the look of “Oh great, a book” come across his face. But as he read the cover, a glimmer of recognition flashed through and then… the tears came. I bolted up the stairs to give him a big hug. After a few exchanges of gratitude and chit chat, I fully explained to my dad the magnitude of what I had done.
Not only were the memoirs finally typed up…
And in a fully printed hardback book…
This book was properly copyrighted…
His daugher is now a registered publisher…
And 15 years after his death, his father is an author…
As he should be.
Yes sir, I won Christmas this year.
The best news you’ll get today is you too can have your own copy! Order directly through my distribution company through the links below.
If you have any questions or would like a bulk order, please feel free to contact me here.
Again, thank you to everyone for your encouragement and assistance in bringing this project to life. I could never properly express my gratitude to you all but know that your efforts have made all the difference.