If I live long enough, I will eventually forget my own stories, which is one reason I write them down. The mind's grip on language and meaning is less secure than the body's grip on life. If you doubt that, visit a nursing home, as I have been doing frequently for more than a decade, first to watch my wife's mother perish from Alzheimer's disease, then to watch my wife's father wither away from congestive heart failure, and now to see my own mother sink into a wordless stupor. Their dying has made me an elder, whether I am ready for the role or not. And elders have a duty to tell the younger generations what they have learned from life, whether the lessons be great or small. So I have been moved to write this book as much by the departure of parents as by the arrival of a grandchild. I have been moved to write by an awareness that the mind's acuity, built up over a lifetime, is precarious and fleeting.

Scott Russell Sanders, A Private History of Awe