At certain moments in life, prompted by the excitement of some major event, we look ahead in time and think quite simply, I shall remember this forever." And this awareness in itself seems to change the present experience, to enhance it like some object being lit suddenly from a new side. These are among the very few times that we have direct and honest contact with our future selves. Otherwise we are largely, and in a sense unnecessarily, exited from our own future.
-- Robert Grudin ( 1982)
The quote from Grudin's The Time and Art of Living has several interesting implications regarding how we "invent" ourselves ( Bruner & Weisser, 1991) through the life stories we tell. The idea of "major events" calls to mind Linton's ( 1987) idea of "significant memories," ( 1982), memories that critically inform the kind of story(ies) we tell about ourselves. It also makes us aware of the temporal dimensions, the simultaneously present and past nature, if you will, of our life stories: Although they are about our pasts, they are, at the moment of telling, rooted in the present. Implied also is the genre of (re) telling: It is, in most cases, a narrative ( Tonkin, 1992).
All of these implications are central to the discussion in this chapter. The life story as a form revolves around notions of identity and self ( Bruner & Weisser, 1991); the question, "Who am I am?" is at the heart of the life story genre although it is not necessarily a question overtly acknowledged by tellers. That is, tellers do not necessarily tell their life stories in response to "Who are you?" or proceed with "I am going to tell you who I am" (although these prompts cannot be ruled out). They are more likely to tell them in more naturalistic occasions as when a group of people are exchanging stories about certain times in their lives.
Regardless, at least for the moment, of how the life story emerges, the question "Who am I?" has particular implications for the elderly. As Sherman ( 1991) put it, the elderly are likely to frame this question as "Who have