After my dad died and I was gifted by my siblings with many of his personal effects, I found numerous examples of his obsession with note taking.
There were legal pads and tiny pocket-sized pads of his notes, jotted in his hand, of things he wanted or needed to remember.
Some were silly, like answers to tricky Jeopardy questions or the top three answers on Family Feud. He also kept track of his bowling scores for the week, how far he walked each day, and every book he read.
Some were necessary, such as doctors’ appointments, the schedule of medications for my mom, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, and phone numbers for contacts at the VA.
Others were just things he felt compelled to remember, such as the names of mom’s caregivers, or the names and phone numbers of people from the church who brought food.
Sometimes there were addresses, because he wanted to send thank you notes and return casserole dishes.
My own obsessive note-taking habits prove I am my father’s daughter. I like the idea of writing something down to get it out of my head and safely onto paper.
I rely heavily on notes. It’s part of my job. I practiced the art in journalism school, and became fairly proficient during interviews for a story. Now I am compulsive about it.
I have notes everywhere: On my desktop (the electronic one), I see feature stories ideas, column ideas, photos of things I’d like to create for the house or garden, checklist for “fake news,” and inspirational quotes I wanted to keep.
On the other desktop (the hard surface one) are at least three notepads of various sizes, with another in my purse and four in the drawer.
(I have tried to keep just one notebook, and write everything in it, but that has never worked for me. I worry that I’ll lose everything. As it is, chances are better that I won’t lose all 17 notepads at the same time.)
I also have an abundant collection of scraps of paper on which I’ve jotted phone numbers, email and web addresses, half sentences to jog my memory, a fun word recently learned.
Also on my desk is a “real” calendar on which I write down important engagements from meetings to coffee interviews to haircuts and vacation days.
Sticky notes adorn my computer’s screen, with reminders about people I should call, tasks I should complete, and new ideas I should explore.
As if all that writing wasn’t enough note-taking, let’s consider the cell phone. That’s where I note (again) reminders about people I should call, tasks I should complete, and new ideas I should explore.
There is also a digital calendar, which has become like another brain because it’s always with me. Here I make a second notation of engagements I need to keep, from ribbon cuttings to photo shoots, theatre shows, coffee with friends, and birthdays.
Is all this note-taking and list-making an age thing? I don’t know.
I just know I learned from the best. The man never had a cell phone or a computer. But he kept notes.
He knew his highest bowling score, his next-door neighbor’s kids’ birthdays, and the answer (in question form) to “Australian bay named for the many plants growing on its shores.”
I might know the answer too, if only I could find where I wrote it.