From time to time, I have had the opportunity to post a few small works of fiction. They were just little stories that I hoped would make a point. While they are no one’s story in particular, they all contain elements that are familiar to me. I filled in the details with characters and descriptions that would make each a story. If you read any of them these on past Sundays, I hope you found some enjoyment. Now I would like to recommend to you a more important story. It is one that only you can fill in the details, and it is imperative that you do it soon before the chance slips away. That story is your story.
How often have you wondered about the details of your ancestry? How often did you wish to know more about your parents’ lives or your grandparents’ lives? Where did they come from? How did they meet? How did they fall in love? What did they do before you were around? Perhaps you have parents who were around at pivotal points in history. What do they recall? Did you wait until it was too late to ask these questions or is there still time?
It is not that my brother and I did not think to ask our parents about their earlier lives, we just did not get good answers. Of course, we did not press them on anything, especially when we were young. My mother lived through the Great Depression. The family was so poor that a wealthy relative offered to raise my mother. She feared my grandmother could not properly feed all her children (six, although one died as a child). Apparently my grandfather was not a good provider. Details of his bad habits are sketchy. My mother was not given away and they struggled through the 1930s. As for the war years, I have no idea.
My father was born into rural American farm life. He joined the war effort (WWII) as soon as he was old enough. Like many of our “greatest generation” he said little about it. “What did you do in the war, dad?” we might ask. “I learned to peel potatoes”, he would usually respond. Even if that were true, it does not tell the story. My father was a member of the army air corp. 509 Composite. That is the group that was on Tinian Island. There the secret mission of the group there was to drop the atom bomb on Japan. Did my father know any of that? Probably not as records indicate he was trained in first aid and medical support. Remaining documents are a matter of contradiction. Some of the record may have been untrue to cover what was the actual story. We’ll never know.
Late in dad’s life it was futile to recover any details. My brother tried to get some information and did a lot of research that allowed us to only confirm a few things. We have medals, his discharge paper and the 509 Composite book with some pictures as the only definite facts. The rest of the story was my father’s joke or dismissive answers. Of course, we have heard that many who came back from the war, did not want to talk about it. In my father’s later life we did attend some family reunions and travelled to the rural community where he was born. My grandparents are buried there. We learned some of his past, nothing about the war.
I tell you all this to remind you that you may want to learn as much of your ancestry as you can. It is part of your story. You may have heard of ancestry.com or the PBS television series that traces the ancestry of famous people. These have become popular because of our desires to know who we are and where we came from. If your parents and grandparents are alive, ask them your questions now, before it is too late.
When my grandmother was still alive and in her 90’s, there was a picture taken with her holding her great-great grand-daughter with her daughter, grand-daughter and great grand-daughter behind her. I wonder if there is a copy of that photo for the infant in the picture. More importantly, can anyone recount the stories of those in the picture? Save your priceless photos too. There may be no telling how valuable these pictures will be to future generations.
What about the most important story of all? That would be your story, of course. You may not think it now, but your story may be important to the future. Consider what your friends and offspring may wish to know. Tell the stories as honestly as you can. That does not mean you have to tell everything. Some things are best if they are not passed along. Tell the things the next generations will want to know about you, and who and what came before you as far as you know. You will be honoring the future generations in this way. What you wanted to know about your past may be what your offspring will want to know about you. Toss the dirt out the window and do not be tempted to give “alternative facts.”
National Public Radio has featured stories from Story Corps. Over 100,000 people have recorded their stories there, some more than once, years apart. Some are absolutely moving accounts of where some people have been in their lives. I heard one on the radio of an elderly couple who told their story on-line and then updated 10 years later before the husband’s death. Then he recounted how he wrote love letters to his wife every day for over 40 years and their love had never died. Did following generations know this? They know it now. Do not leave your story untold and unwritten. It is your legacy. It is the most important story you know.