Writing Memoirs for Others

An Interview with Buddy Moore

Clarence “Buddy” Moore, 85, is a lifetime DC resident and an honoree of HelpAge USA’s inaugural “60 Over 60” list. As a member of Mayor Bowser’s Multimodal Accessibility Advisory Council and Outreach Coordinator for Ward One Senior Wellness Center, Buddy helps older people and persons with disabilities in DC thrive. Recently, Buddy took some time to sit down with us and discuss what motivates his work.

In honoring you, we noted your contributions in helping older people and people with disabilities in DC. What drew you to this work?

I’m not sure exactly what drove me to working with older adults except for the fact that I got older! I realized that whatever issues facing me were also being experienced by older adults. And I guess one of the things that sort of began me on this journey was deciding to assist seniors in writing their memoirs. Dr. Frank Smith, who is the director of the African American Civil War Museum – Frank and I are very good friends. And one day, we invited Frank to the Senior Wellness Center in Ward 1 for Black History Month. And Frank came and he was dressed in his civil war outfit.

After Frank had made his presentation, Frank and I had a conversation and Frank said that one of the difficult parts of setting up the museum in its inception was getting information – information pertaining to African Americans who fought in the civil war. Apparently, many of them didn’t write things down. If they did write things down, they really didn’t share it with the family and at some point in time, families went in attics and found things that soldiers had written, but had never shared with their family. I decided at that point that I would interview members of the Senior Wellness Center and help them write their memoirs.

What keeps you passionate about your work?

Well, as you know, I write these short stories about my life, starting when I was a young kid all the way up to yesterday. And that keeps me interested in getting up in the morning.

With me, I mean things are so exciting that when I get up in the morning, it’s almost as if I’m going to work. I do everything that I used to do at work, you know… And even if I’m not going out, I still get dressed in the same manner – maybe not as formal as I used to when I was going out and working or going to meetings, but I’m dressed so that if I needed to go out, I would just need to put on a coat and a hat and walk out.

Just waking up in the morning and learning new things, which I know I’m going to learn something new every day that I wake up, that sort of excites me. It keeps me motivated to want to get up in the morning, to want to do things. I’m just curious about what’s happening in my life and the lives above us.

 …I’m not sure when I realized that was the reason that I get up and do what I do is because of the excitement of learning new things.

With my vision…glaucoma has taken all of the sight out of my left eye, and I have limited vision in my right eye. So, learning new stuff, even though it can be frustrating because I’ve been told by my ophthalmologist and other ophthalmologists that in order to see depth and thickness, you need both eyes. So, with height, I have to be so careful when I’m moving about because I can’t tell the height of a curb. I don’t know whether it’s two inches high or three feet high. What I realized is the excitement with me is learning how to do things differently. And I sort of compare what I do to young children, kids who are just learning how to walk, how to run, how to jump. I almost have to learn how to do things over again because they have to be very careful that when walking up or down the steps, because I can’t tell one step begins and the other ends. It’s a learning experience for me. And while it’s frustrating, it’s exciting.

" …I'm not sure when I realized that was the reason that I get up and do what I do is because of the excitement of learning new things."

What is your favorite part of your work?

Oh boy, again, sharing my stories with other people and hoping that other people will begin to write incidents in their lives. Now, I know writing about yourself can be pretty difficult because you don’t want to bring up those bad memories of things that have happened to us that weren’t so positive.

And of course, what I’m finding is so many things have happened to me that weren’t so positive…and I call them traumatic experiences and dramatic experiences and I write about both. It’s not as if I only pull out the positive things that have happened. I pull out those things that were very traumatic when they were happening. I found the more I write about them, the less traumatic they become. I mean, I’m not sure which incidents I did not want to write about, but I know there was my wife’s death…my wife passed away with ALS Lou Gehrig’s disease. Now that was very difficult to write about…But what I found again was the more I write about these things that happen in my life, those traumatic incidents, the more un-traumatic they become because I have distance now between when it happened and today. I can even sort of smile or chuckle about those things that were…but I can go back now and see a little humor in some of it.

 What keeps you going when you encounter roadblocks?

I set it aside and sort of wait until early in the morning. I know something is going to click. If I’m going and then it is kind of difficult to do on the day or in the evening, I say “Okay, I’ll figure it out tomorrow morning.” And chances are, the answer is right there, or whatever I need is right there the next morning.

But again, what I do in my writing, as soon as I decide I’m going to write, I start writing everything about that subject or even stuff that may not even pertain to that subject. I write it, I type everything. And then I go back and pull stuff out that doesn’t pertain to the subject matter.

And it’s over a period of time that I’m editing, adding, subtracting, dividing – but the excitement is always there for me. But the task sometimes is “How can I make it interesting to other people?” I sort of know how to do that and I know my audience. I’m not a professional writer, I’m not a trained writer, but my audience is sort of members of my family who either did not graduate high school, or graduated high school, or maybe attended college for a short period of time…Those are the people that I’m writing for, hoping that it will encourage them to begin to write for themselves.

How did you decide that was going to be your audience?

Because so many of my male relatives, my children, my nephews, even my uncles, they were not writers. Some other were not readers.

I figured that if I talked about my life and put things that transpired in my life on paper and send it to them and they started reading it, they would see how sort of easy it is to talk about their experiences. Now, not that they will, but at least they can see, “Hey, you know, I can do that.”

Do you have any advice to share with people who might want to follow in your footsteps?

Yes, get involved in activities that will help other people. I’m talking about volunteering even after you have retired. Don’t feel as though you now have nothing to do… that you can sit back and get in the rocking chair and watch television and do those things that don’t require a lot of thinking and a lot of physical movement. What happens with me is that I get to know so many other people, so many other organizations, by volunteering for one organization, plus I learn new skills, you know like how to work the zoom platform… I just think that it makes your life more interesting, more exciting. You meet more people. You also get to know where things are that you can use to help other people.

For example, with the Multimodal Accessibility Advisory Council, we worked directly with DDOT, the DC Department of Transportation, and I’m learning a lot about what they do. Therefore, I can pass that information on to other people, especially seniors, about the work that DDOT does… We had a meeting last night of our group and I talked about the fact that we were able to get a verbal signal at the intersection not too far from where I live for persons with visual problems. And so that’s one of the things that I was able to do with a friend of mine who was also a member of Multimodal Accessibility Advisory Council who’s blind, the two of us work together and do that.

What's next for your work?

I don’t know. I really don’t. Well, I’m getting ready to run for President of my resident association in my building. We have 180 units here. I’m the first vice president now. We will have an election in June of this year. So, my plan is to run for that, and then if I’m successful with that…then that’s going to take up much of my time. 

 

“60 Over 60” honors 60 Americans over 60 who are making significant contributions to society at the local, national or international level. You can view the full list of honorees by clicking here

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