Foreword to my memoir: why do this?

August, 2021, LaGrange Park, Illinois

“Now also when I am old and grey-headed, O God, forsake me not; UNTIL I have shown thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to everyone that is to come.”

— Psalm 92:13 

Why do this memoir? 

The author in 2021

How important, real, or even in my possession is the set of recollected experiences I compile here and call “my life story?” 

And how worthy is this endeavor? Writing a careful chronology requires significant labor and time to complete, and at age 60, those resources are unknown quantities. Couldn’t I be doing something more immediately useful?

Who will benefit?

I cannot be sure, but I think both I and the reader can benefit from what follows.  

I want to avoid merely fixating on myself, and, like some older people I’ve known, replay stories from their past to demonstrate just how clever, abused, or worthy they have been.

In the time I have left on earth, I want to increase the health of me and everything around me, but especially those I love. I think mental health and strong relationships come from truth and love. “The truth will set you free,” Jesus famously states, and I have found that being honest with oneself and others pays off in strong relationships and self-acceptance.  

The reason I start this project now, in my 60th year, is that I currently have time and a relatively sound mind to devote to it. Before infirmity or cognitive loss start to erase my personality, I will make the attempt to describe just who this “I” named “Andrew Gibson Bendelow” was. In each telling of a remembered event, scientists tell us, the facts of the actual occurrence get altered to some extent. The narrative moves ever-further from the actual event with each telling, so consider this an attempt to capture something relatively close to the truth of the story.  

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To avoid relying on my recollections alone, I will try, as far as possible, to describe the knowable facts, steering clear of prior assumptions or received opinions about who “I” has been. This fresh retrospective begun in the summer of 2021 will be anchored in primary source documents like letters and journal entries. I will also seek to corroborate my interpretation and understanding of events with those of others and contemporaneous records where available. 

What follows is meant to be a salubriously honest chronology for me and my readers, whom I primarily conceive of as my children (Kyle, Anne, Faith, my step-daughter Gita) and their spouses (and perhaps, their children, if their generation persists–something that as I begin in 2021 cannot easily be assumed). 

I want this memoir to give them what I have learned about myself, and by extension, about human experience, during the time I’ve had to live. That is because in my 60 years, I have gotten satisfaction and meaning from my experiences, and wish to describe that meaning as best I can for them. In the process, I hope to offer certain principles of human existence that might possibly help my children get more from their human experiences. If even one helpful idea or understanding comes from this, then I believe it will have been worthwhile.

Of course, it is quite likely that my children will not find interest in what I have to share. Yet I will go on with this, believing that the process of honestly setting down my memories now–my achievements and my failures– provides me the chance to reflect on my experience before I am dead. As I prepare for death, I want to remind myself, I suppose, of how much I have really lived.

 When she was 82, my devout grandmother Mae Gibson Bendelow wrote down her life-story, stating, 

“I believe there have been incidents in my life about which my grandchildren would be interested in hearing; simply because they love a story – or perhaps out of curiosity. When Susan, as a young girl, visited me, she often asked about the days when I was young, and seemed to enjoy the stories I told her.”

Mae believed in a personal relationship with the divine, and looking back, she saw the hand of God guiding her at every turn:  

“It surely isn’t that I’ve had an extraordinary life — very, very ordinary in fact, and yet when I look back from the vantage point of 82 years I am amazed to see how in the good Providence of God I was being led along a pathway that brought fulfillment to me, and, though slowly, an ever increasing knowledge of God’s love. He was with me always (though often I was unaware of this at the time) patiently teaching me to trust Him in the circumstances which He arranged to come into my life. Especially do I value the spiritual lessons I learned, which have given me such heart-peace and joy in our Lord Jesus Christ and the Father in Heaven. This is worth more than all this world could ever give, so, perhaps by telling my little stories, my grandchildren and little great granddaughter may see, with me, how wonderful it is to know God personally – to learn the lessons He sets before us, to seek to walk with Him through life even to old age, which surprisingly enough, can in one sense be the best time of all.”

I cannot claim with Grandma that readers will see anything like the hand of Providence in the following, but there will be “lessons learned” and a sincere sense of gratitude for the extraordinary fate that has brought me so far. My remembering self# feels very lucky, I would even say “blessed,” by good luck. At every stage, in all sorts of ways, things could have been much worse than they were.