Ralph’s Famous Adventure in Hog Killing —or Keeping the Stories Alive Despite Alzheimer’s

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I was making dinner the other night when Ralph called me out to the porch where he was having his daily late afternoon cigarette and beer listening to the radio. A story on All Things Considered had piqued a memory from his childhood.

“Have I ever told you about the hog killing?” he asked.

Oh God, not the hog killing story again, I thought as he launched into it. How many times over the years have our kids and I have heard this story–how he was a little kid visiting relatives on a farm with his family one fall during hog killing season, how his easily hysterical mother started shrieking, how the gory killing is mixed into a memory of getting ice cream cones. But it’s a better story in his telling than mine.

“You know you should write that story down,” I told him. “All your stories, actually.”

He nodded. “Yes, I should.”

This conversation is not a new conversation. Every few weeks we agree he has a lot of great stories, and is (or was) a natural storyteller of the Southern charm variety. I suggest he get a notebook and write the stories down. He says, yes, he definitely will do that.

But given Ralph’s inertia fed by his place on the Alzheimer’s spectrum, that’s only going to happen if I make it.

And so far I have been a slacker. I tell him and myself I will get a notebook and set aside time each day for us to work on stories, but then I let the whole idea slip off my radar as quickly as it slips from his. His excuse is cognitive impairment. Mine is laziness at making one more effort. The discipline it will take for me to get him to get the stories down is the same discipline I need—and have so far lacked—to get him to exercise more. His lack of enthusiasm gets me off the hook and feeds my own penchant for lethargy.

But I am making early New Year resolutions. I need to get Ralph walking before he puts on more (not to mention my inches and pounds). More important, I cannot wait until Ralph and I are both inspired to record, whether on audio or in writing, his stories.

Because otherwise the day will come when I ask him to tell me one or he tries to remember, and the story is gone.

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5 thoughts on “Ralph’s Famous Adventure in Hog Killing —or Keeping the Stories Alive Despite Alzheimer’s

      1. Good idea to preserve the stories and a great idea for a gift. My wife and I might borrow that idea ourselves. About 40 years ago, I took an oral history from my grandparents (born in the 1880s). It’s been years since I’ve listened to it, but their stories are very interesting both because they are people I love and because the stories are about a different historical period. And just hearing their voices always puts a smile on my face. So be sure to give them the audio, even if you do transcribe the stories.

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    1. Great point. I have a recorder I use for interviews, and think I may use. I think working together on a project appeals to Ralph, but keeping it going is the trick. Will update progress.

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