Family Health Care Time Space Continuum

Another long break. I’m back. (I think.) You know, I talk here of recording family histories, or family stories, but since April I’ve been in a slightly different mode: family medical history. It’s not from long ago; it’s current. And, depending on events (which included nearly 3 weeks of hospitalization or skilled nursing facility-ization), I find myself leaving the land of so-called normal to a different mindset– the health care time-space continuum. That place is highly absorbing, but it’s nothing I wish to talk about here. Hence the silence. (But the patient is home again, which is a nice improvement.)

I suppose if I were to relate it to the topic at hand—recording and preserving family stories—I have two things to say:

Though I have been around family members quite a bit, I find myself with zero interest in doing any interviewing. (well, one channel of my lovely stereo microphone went kaput and I haven’t had the energy or the inclination to even begin troubleshooting it beyond confirming that yes, there’s no incoming signal from the one mic.) No interest. None. Was this helped by the fact that I’ve already conducted some interviews of the family member? Probably. Though there are questions I’d still like to ask, stories I want to hear.

The Pros in the Oral History biz toss around a term that was maybe spawned by the insurance industry: “Actuarial Imperative.” (Actuarial as in actuarial tables, where you look up a person’s age, and then the table tells you how many years that person will live. On average.) Which is a nine-syllable mouthful that means first interview the people that are most likely to die the soonest. Given a choice between interviewing an 80 year old and a 60 year old, interview the 80 year old person first. If you have two 80 year olds to interview, set up that interview with the one whose health is worse. It’s common sense, really.

The conclusion I draw from my lack of inclination—and the fact that this relative is skating near the edge of actuarial imperative-ness is that it’s better to interview a family member before things advance to the stage that my family has recently experienced. Again, common sense. But it’s also a discovery of mine, one that I might not have made before we’ve gone though what we’ve gone through.

Hora fugit—carpe diem. Time flees. Seize the day. Before you enter that health care time space continuum yourself. If you can. And now that we’ve walked away from this edge, I might find the curiosity and time to ask some more of those questions.

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on June 19, 2008 in • HousekeepingInterviewingPersonal History
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