One of the challenges in our interconnected modules is choosing what to write about and reflect on. I read our required readings early last week, and I was struck by their messages of community and inclusion. Given the events of this past spring, these are important topics to consider — How do our library’s policies impact the accessibility of our resources? Are they truly accessible to everyone? What do we need to do to make our library and our resources equitably attainable? How can we make sure every student that is attending our university can access everything they need to learn, grow, and achieve while on campus?

And then life happened (as it does). I got the call late on Thursday that it’s time to start hospice care for my dad, who has been fighting Alzheimer’s for a long time; I’ve been his primary caregiver for almost 5 years now. And all of my scholarly thoughts flew out the window.

[Image description: A photograph of the author and her father at a family celebration in 1997. He has clearly just told an inappropriate joke or anecdote, which explains my laugh/face palm and the smirk on his face. Photo by Dan Gill; used with permission.]

One of the hardest parts of watching a loved one suffer through this disease is their loss of voice, of words, of shared experience. My dad was a prime storyteller, with a twinkle in his eye as he shared anecdotes that were usually inappropriate for the audience, but his look promised he was never malicious about it. Watching his sense of humor fade away, along with his words and his stories, has been the most painful part of witnessing his decline.

So when I consider Dr. Stephens’ description of the library as a place that keeps stories, makes stories and shares stories (lecture for Module 4), I think of my dad. How do you preserve the memory of a loved one? How can I keep my dad’s stories for my son?

This is a worthy question to extrapolate to our own communities. How can we collect the stories of our community and preserve them for future generations? We need to make sure that we are collecting a variety of stories across our community. Are we only preserving stories of prosperity, or of the wealthy people that have given money to support the community? Or are we collecting other stories too — stories of struggles to succeed, stories that lead to questions about how to improve the community for everyone?

I can tell you that stories of my father cannot exclude the fact that he was racist and homophobic. He and I struggled against each other as he grew more polarized and I became more liberal. But I still love him. I will still care for him, until the day he dies.

I say this because we need to be more open in our communities. We need to acknowledge the skeletons in our closets. The colonialism and slavery and racism in our past. The hurt members of our community have felt at the words and actions from others. We need to share all of our stories and preserve them for future generations, so that we can come together to heal and build better, more equitable spaces for everyone.

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info 287: reflection #4.2: grief during a pandemic – JRB websmith · October 27, 2020 at 4:26 pm

[…] I wrote last month, the idea of stories immediately brings thoughts of my father, who was an extraordinary […]

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