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?