Family…a circle of individuals, that even if you grew up together and experienced the same family unit, are all different. Their perceptions of experiences are unique to them, and unique in how they see it. I know for me, when I talk to my kids about their time growing up, I sometimes ask myself, “What house did they grow up in?!?!?!??”
So in the last week or so as I have read letters that my mother wrote to relatives in Norway, I found myself learning about things I didn’t know. Things she protected her children from…such as the grief she felt after losing her brother. We kids knew that it was hard for her, and we all felt anger towards the irresponsibility of the driver that was driving a large work truck while drunk, and crossed into the oncoming traffic. Even though he was in a line of five cars and the third one back, he was killed instantly. I went on to read in her letters about how she lost her dad only about eleven or so months after losing her brother and the difficulty she was having to even get a letter out to the person she was writing to. I feel bad that I was less attentive to what she was going through. I remember those life moments, but as kids, we don’t always get all the ramifications. We are in school and/or working a job, keep ourselves busy because that is our life at the time. It can also be that we don’t know how to deal with it or want to replay the emotions of losing someone special ourselves, so we in turn, aren’t prepared to give the comfort where we could to someone who needs it. As I’m my case, where although I was old enough to understand my uncle wasn’t coming back, I wasn’t mature enough to understand how deeply that would affect my mother. When I read about her struggle almost a year later from losing her brother and then her father, my heart hurts for what she felt. And…I wish I had realized. Sometimes, we think our parents are so invincible that nothing can take them down. However, that isn’t true. They are hurting and yet have to press on in life. When she is home alone, and writing a letter, safety permits a peek into the honesty of her heart as she writes the letter. The door of the heart is opened a bit.
Why am I sharing this with you? Well…a couple of reasons. One of them is that we need to be open to share our lives and feelings with our kids and grandkids. Tell your story at the age level they can understand. Let them know when you hurt so they can better understand their own hurt and know they can trust you with their hurts. We don’t want to be the one who says, “Man! I wish I would have asked more questions of my mom and dad to know and understand their life and how it was for them!” Ask the questions. Get the story. Otherwise all you have are fragments of their lives and more questions than answers sometimes. I know in my case, I asked some questions. With my grandparents, most of the answers never came. It may have been difficult for them to talk about too given what they experienced in their lives before coming here and then the hardship of making a life for themselves once they arrived. Then again, it seems to be kind of a Norwegian trait to keep those things to themselves.
The second reason is this. Regrets can paralyze you. We all have a few that we think we can handle. But it’s better to live without them. Mom never drove. That was her choice. However, it isolated her from doing things she could have done to enjoy her life even more. I was her chauffeur, but she had to wait 15 1/2 years for that to happen. I think she would have enjoyed her life a bit more freely if she had been willing to learn to drive. Many offered. It can be a bit lonely. So I would say to you, show interest in the stories you hear now. Record them telling the stories while they are here to share them. One day you won’t be able to say, “Hey Mom/Dad…or Hey Grandma/Grandpa…” or whoever it may be. I read these letters where my mom talks about wanting so much to go to Norway and see relatives. She wanted to see where her parents grew up and what they did for a living there. Wow! Wouldn’t I love a little bit of time with my parents and grandparents to share what I saw and learned while I visited Norway. Your story is all a part of you. Tell your story…write your story…put together a picture story. Whatever works for you, but share it. One day, you may come to understand yourself better because of it.
I know. You are busy. But your parents, grandparents, and their siblings did a lot for you. Slow down. Put down the phone. Shut off the TV. Shut down the computer. Tell their story. Tell your story. It’s the next best seller book you can read with your family. I have a treasure box for my grandson that I made when he was little. It has all kinds of things in there that tell about myself and my parents and grandparents. Each time he came, something was added, and he would want to go through it. It is a very fun way to share your life story with them. They love stories…especially when it is about someone they know and love. And if you love your parents and grandparents and family, even though, as in Ethan’s case where he never meant them in person, he knows about them and the kind of people they were. That blesses me, and someday, I think he will be very glad grandma shared it with him.
This is another wake up call for me. Live well. Live long…as the Lord allows. Life is full of lessons. Listen to those who have learned them, so that, you can better share your legacy.
Until next time…