The Importance of Elders in My Life and in My Writing
by Dari LaRoche
October 6, 2022
To me, an elder is not necessarily older than me, but they are usually more expert and wiser in certain subjects, people whom I respect for their ethics and knowledge. That being said, most of those who have influenced me on my path have indeed been older, as well.
My grandparents figured highly in my very early years when we lived on the farm in South Dakota. My paternal grandfather used to take me and my cousin with him on the big tractor as he drove around to check the traps that he had set for the predators who came calling. I do not remember ever seeing an animal who was hurt in a trap, but I am sure there must have been. I suspect Grandpa drove on by those traps and came back later to check on them when he was by himself. For a child of five years old, riding on the tractor with our grandfather was the high point. We didn’t really understand the rest.
My maternal grandmother was an artist, as was my mother, as am I. One of the things that I treasure is her wooden paint box. It is about the size of a small briefcase, with a handle, and hinges. The outside is somewhat clean, but the inside is covered with multicolored blotches of artists paints. Whether I ever actually use it or not, I will always keep it. And just having it inspires me to reach higher in my own artistic endeavors.
We were very lucky in my family. Our home was always full of love and laughter. Our parents supported us in everything we did or tried to do. They also ingrained in us the niceties of life and common civility, something that many have forgotten these days. When someone came to visit, no matter what was going on, everything ceased, and the visitors became my parents’ full focus until they left. If a friend ever needed help, my parents always stood at the ready.
They supported us and our feelings as well. If we spent the night with a friend and we decided we wanted to come home, all we had to do was call and they would come to collect us, no questions asked. I don’t know how many of you have ever had your mouth washed out with soap—literally—but I have. To this day, it is deeply ingrained in me that if I can’t say anything good, I don’t say anything at all. Believe me, I have bitten my tongue until I could taste the metallic slickness of blood more than once to keep from saying something nasty.
My mother shared with us a love of music, art, and literature. Television didn’t come into our home until I was thirteen and my grandparents got a new TV and gave us their black and white thirteen-inch one. We were only allowed a half-hour of television a night when we first got it, so if we wanted to watch an hour show, we had to all agree and use two nights’ allotment. It may seem mean to some since so many of today’s parents use television or videos as a built-in babysitter for the little ones, but for us, it was normal. We learned to negotiate with each other early on so that everyone got their first choice in programs at some point.
My father was a voracious reader who told fascinating stories and recited poetry to us at night and went to his job as a welder in the daytime to support our family. He never had much chance to travel, except to Hawaii and several other states. But he loved it. He would even carry on extended conversations with telephone operators in other parts of the country and the world, just to learn about them and their lives (back during the time when we all used operators, that is.) Many times, I heard him telling some person on the other end of the line how he loved their accent and asking what the weather was like where they were. This sounds like he was a lonely man, but that simply is not true. He was just a people person who was interested in everyone and delighted in talking with them.
As for our homelife, instead of reading us bedtime stories (a task he left to our mother), he would read poetry with all the pomp and feeling of a great orator. He found as much joy in quoting “Horatius at the Bridge” from the Lays of Ancient Rome by Thomas Babington Macaulay to us when we were kids, as the Robert W. Service poems, “The Shooting of Dan McGrew” or “The Cremation of Sam McGee.” We’d frequently sit around his chair in the living room at night and he would quote poetry to us. We were all mesmerized as his voice rose and fell. All of these poems seem rather violent as I read them now, but at the time we loved them, and our father put so much character and feeling into them that it was like living out part of a play. “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson was one of his all-time favorites. Even now, I remember most of it.
Today we have Google when we want more information about other countries, culture, and life in general. My father had the Encyclopedia Britannica, the people he talked to, and the books he read. I count myself incredibly lucky that our parents instilled in us all a love of literature and reading.
MY DEAR 101-YR OLD FRIEND, ELEANOR
I met her many years ago through my sister who planted flowers with her and eventually for her in her beautiful rockery garden in West Seattle overlooking Puget Sound. She isn’t our relative but is related to one of our relatives. She is a feisty, spry lady who is the most positive, resilient person I know. She always gets her hair done every Friday afternoon and looks like a million bucks, with her makeup and jewelry on and colorful fancy blouses tucked into her dark-colored slacks. She works crossword puzzles everyday and plays poker once a week with the people who live in her building. The other players call her “Diamond Lil” because she wins a lot. My only hope is that I can be as resilient as she is and enjoy life as much as she does when I reach her age.
THE ULTIMATE EFFECT ON ME AND MY WRITING
We didn’t have money growing up, but we had love of family, consideration of others, a love and appreciation for nature, music, art, and reading. It shaped each and every one of us and who we all became. Without a doubt, it figures deeply in my writing today.
Dari LaRoche writes contemporary romance and romantic suspense that will keep you reading long after the witching hour has passed. Her everyday heroes face challenges requiring strength of character, perseverance, and an ever ready dose of laughter to find their way to love and happiness. Her Rescue Series takes place in the Pacific Northwest and the Caribbean, settings inspired by LaRoche’s love for travel and passion for safeguarding the natural environment. To learn. more about Dari, visit her website.