Reflections on writing The Woods

The aging process comes to all of us in as many different ways as we are individuals. I have watched dementia take its toll on one side of my family, including my mother in her waning years. As a minister for over forty years, I have spent a lot of time with those older than myself. I have seen people embrace their “golden years” with good humour and dignity, as well as deny and resist time’s ravages. I have buried people—particularly men—who died shortly after retirement, from no obvious illness, except that they overly identified themselves with their work. When their work ended, so did their lives. And golf isn’t enough!

With my flypaper memory, I have heard some hilarious statements from people I have known and loved as their minds and memories went somewhere else. My mother, who had been a prim and proper lady (but with a great sense of humor) said some outrageously funny and saucy things in her last few years. She appears in the guise of several characters in The Woods. I have also heard such poignant things from those going into the fog of dementia, that I had to cry. When I was in my thirties, one member of my congregation was a tall, impressive academic who thought I was his father. When I was leaving his room in the care center, he would call after me, “Thanks, Dad! Thanks for letting me come here!” I felt as though I had dropped him off for summer camp.

But this novel is not all about dementia. If we are blessed with long years, aging is also our chance to become who we have always been, but never lived into—because of social image, work, peer pressure, etc. It’s a wonderful time for embracing a ‘who cares?’ attitude and go out in a bunny onesy with fluffy slippers. Old age is still life…and there’s no point in taking it, or ourselves, too seriously! Meet the characters of The Woods and see for yourself.

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