Front Porch Republic had a short article this week about Community, Storytelling and Remembering by Doug Sangster. It made me remember the stories I was told as a child. The funny ones like the time my mother’s father, who was not very tall went into the kitchen to get the dessert, strawberry shortcake after dinner one day. The cake was sitting on top of the refrigerator. A few minutes later Pop-Pop came out with strawberry shortcake all over him. He had reached up for it and it fell off the platter and on him. I heard that story growing up many times. Sometimes my grandmother told it but it was best when my uncle told the story. We knew what was coming but still laughed every time.
I’m a baby boomer so my family has been losing our Greatest Generation uncles. In the past 4 years we have lost one of them in my dad’s side of the family each year. Though they all were elderly, it still was hard to see their children, wives and or siblings having trouble saying goodbye. The one thing that was a healing part for relatives was the stories that were told. Some stories I remembered, and some were new. There were tears but there was also laughter. My aunt had lived with her brother on the farm all her life and it was so hard for her but she wanted to hear every story. She wanted to talk about my uncle. She did cry but she also laughed.
My father died when I was 16. I am the eldest of three siblings. At his funeral people did tell us stories but after the funeral, people wouldn’t mention him. At the time it was felt that you shouldn’t talk about those who had passed as the family would get upset. Well, we probably would have cried but the truth was we were already crying and the talking about dad. We wanted to talk. We wanted to hear the stories. Times have changed and must people now understand how therapeutic it is to talk, to tell stories when we have lost someone we loved.
At one of those funerals, someone came up and talked to my sister about my dad. She called all of us other so we could hear the stories. We learned more about my dad and why this fellow from his church looked up to dad. He told us how dad had asked him to church and encouraged him during bowling nights. His stories were new to us and precious.
Therefore, I encourage you to talk with those who are older than you to hear the stories before your time, the stories of your grandparents, your parents. They are the stories of your family. The ones you will want to continue to share. The generation older than you will not always be there for you to ask the stories. My dad died when I was 16 and my mom has Alzheimer’s. We have lost many stories but when we are together we still share stories. It allows the next generation to hear about their grandfather who they never met. We get to hear their stories.
Stories are important and bring people together. Listen to those storytellers. One day you will be the storyteller.
What family stories do you love to hear or tell?