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The Gift

09 Jul

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I recently finished the second part of my summer vacation. A recount of the first 9 days can be viewed here. The second half consisted of various family members visiting the cabin at varying times. The first to visit was my father. The domestic CEO had taken the day off and prepped the cabin for our arrival. Furniture was moved to make it easier for dad to maneuver his walker. little did I know the gift that he would give me over the three days of his visit. Those of you with aging parents and grandparents, pay attention.

At the tender age of 91, dad took the long car ride quite well. I know this because he started talking before we got in the car Friday morning and hardly took a breath until we arrived at the cabin four hours later. This is the same man who said a total of six words to me during a thirteen hour trip we took to Arkansas when I was about twenty. Sure I heard some stories and a few jokes that I’d heard before, but I also heard stories that I have wanted to hear for most of my life.

Over the next two and a half days, dad talked more than I can ever remember him talking. At one point the Domestic CEO was watching a favorite television show. Dad and I were discussing the finer points of testing outboard marine engines. Dad went so far as to try to bring the CEO into the conversation. The CEO finally turned and gave me a look. Bless her heart she didn’t say anything, but the look said it all. “Would you two just shut up until my show is over?” I smiled warmly at her and went back to the conversation. The weather outside was cold and rainy, and the cabin is just not very big. The CEO survived and made us a great supper.

I mentioned a few special stories that I always wanted to hear about. Two dealt with dad’s experiences during World War II. The events that led to his being recommended for two Bronze Star Medals. I had done some research and read the commanding officer’s recommendations so I had some idea of what to expect. But…there is something about hearing the first-hand account that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up. I also, got him to talk about his father whom I knew as a child but really didn’t know his background.

I’ve had several opportunities over the past seven years to sit down and have these type conversations with dad. They are all some of my most cherished moments. I have seen first hand how our society files the elderly away into institutions and choose to ignore them. The knowledge base and wisdom from experience that is left to fade away would fill up a super computer. It’s a shame really.

I know that I am lucky that dad is still very sharp mentally and I intend to spend as much time as I can listening to his stories. How can you not love hearing about history from someone who was there?

 

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12 Comments

Posted by on July 9, 2014 in Thoughts on Writing

 

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12 responses to “The Gift

  1. 4amWriter

    July 9, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Important stuff here, Dennis. We just had a family reunion a month ago, but in actuality it was a surprise celebration of my mom’s 85th birthday. One of her cousins from Texas came all the way to NH to celebrate, and it was wonderful because they are the last two living family members who remember all the family history that dates back to the colonial days. My cousin Shelley is a few years younger than my mom, and she recorded Mom on her iPad recounting some old family stories. Stories we will never hear from anyone else.

    We’re lucky in this day and age to have the technology to do that, but families are spread so far apart that getting together isn’t easy or frequent, so I don’t think we get to have as many recordings as we should.

    I’m glad you had that time with your dad.

     
    • Dennis Langley

      July 10, 2014 at 7:38 am

      I wish I could have recorded some of dad’s stories but, a lot of the time we were in the car driving. That’s why a spent half the night filling a notebook with what i could remember. It is so fun to hear about “the old days”.

       
  2. jhmae

    July 10, 2014 at 7:07 am

    My grandfather is 89 – I think I’ve probably heard all of his stories by now, but I love it all the same. So great that your dad is still able to talk about his life. That’s a blessing.

     
    • Dennis Langley

      July 10, 2014 at 7:44 am

      Keep asking questions. I’ve listened to dad for 55 years and I just started to hear new stories in the past seven years. There is no end to the wisdom that they have based on that much real life experience.

       
  3. coreymp

    July 11, 2014 at 9:30 pm

    Wonderful post, Dennis. I can only wish I had more conversations with my father before he suddenly passed away last year. He was only 69 years old. I miss him terribly. Thankfully, I have a lot of great memories with my pops, and I can always go back and think of them whenever I miss him.

     
  4. Jade Reyner

    July 12, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    This is such a true sentiment Dennis. My grandfather was in the second world war, he drove a tank and was based around Italy, yet he never, ever talked about those days. He always made light of them and only really referred to the places that he had been with the very occasional story of skiing. He never talked about those who he had served with and sadly didn’t share many experiences. One time though he got very poorly and ended up in hospital. He had a fever which didn’t break for days and during those days his mind forgot about reality and all of the restrictions that caused his reticence and for those few days he spoke about those years. Nonsense mainly because he was not aware of what he was saying, but it was beautiful to hear about those times. When he was well again he had no memory of what he had talked about and he never mentioned them again but I know that it was a truly wonderful experience for my Dad (and for the rest of us) to hear about a part of his life, a part of history that we can only guess at, yet be eternally grateful to all of those men and women for.

    Thank you for sharing this Dennis and for giving me a few moments of precious memories.

     
  5. Jade Reyner

    July 12, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    Reblogged this on Jade's Jungle and commented:
    A beautiful message from a wonderful blogger. Something we should all remember. Thank you Dennis.

     
    • Dennis Langley

      July 14, 2014 at 8:59 am

      First, Thank you. But, did you have to blow the picture up so much? I opened your blog and scared the hell out of myself! 😀

       
      • Jade Reyner

        July 15, 2014 at 1:32 pm

        Ha ha ha ha ha ha… I did nothing to the photo – that’s how it appeared on your blog when I first read it. I thought you must have been having a good hair day or something 😀

         
      • Dennis Langley

        July 15, 2014 at 2:01 pm

        I’ll have to trim it down. 🙂

         
  6. Charlotte Hoather

    July 30, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Lovely, my grandparents came to Llangollen with me and regaled us with tales it was fabulous :).

     
    • Dennis Langley

      July 30, 2014 at 3:25 pm

      Cherish them and their stories. We only get one chance. 🙂

       

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