Monday, January 24, 2011

helping {someone else} tell *her story*

She'll be 90 in May. Ninety. Nine decades lived. And, I'm helping her to tell *her story*.

All these years and she hasn't gotten them out - these stories. They've been kept inside, locked tight.

And now? Now she seems almost excited to let 'em out.

I've been talking a bit about telling our *stories*. Here and here. It's refreshing to live wholly ourselves, letting the parts of our *stories* that made up a piece of who we are today, come alive and bring our authenticity to the forefront of our days now. 

Making a choice is where story telling begins. How much do we share? Which parts do we omit or highlight more because we've grown so much from those parts, or because we think those other parts can touch someone else - right where she is now.

I'm not sure how much of *her story* she'll let me in on, or how much she'll rediscover about herself in the process of the remembering. One thing I do know...I'm all giddy that she's letting me do the asking - the prompting - and the writing.

Nine years a widow with one adult son remaining of the three she birthed...abandoned by her father...responsible for the early ending of her mother's life, just by being born...

"No one probably ever had a life like mine...," she stated. "It was a strange...odd life...I wasn't brought up, I just grew up."

Hmmm...there's so much here.

And so I ask her, "what did you mean by that statement, Gram?" 

What I got next were the facts.
Just the facts.

Her mother's father's last name was "Harvey". He came from London, England. He had ten children. He died in 1915 (was his first name Charles?).

She continued on about the Harvey Family - her uncles and aunts, and cousins. And, a brief mention that her father's family was from this area (where I and she grew up). Within a year after being born and her mother dying, her father re-enlisted in the military and disappeared. She never saw him again. Raised by her father's parents, who themselves were having issues, she ultimately was raised by her grandfather. It was 1939 and she went to business college, and then World War II broke out. Then, a quick mention of her wedding...eight people in total were there that day. Eight.

And that's where we left off.

So many questions remain. About her. Her story.

She was 13 years younger than Gramp, her husband, and he was brought up in the house directly across the street from her grandfather's, where she grew up. 

What led her to marry that man over a decade older, who had gone off to college and returned before she ever even ventured out of town for her own education? About that baby she lost - did he live long enough for her to hold him? ...and the daughter she lost as a young woman...what was she like?

So many questions requiring so much courage.

I'm almost scared to ask. And yet, she's opened the door to them, in a way. As I asked some of the initial questions, it was like the big ones were just staring at me - waiting to be asked. Did she realize it?

Is it her memory slipping that is the reason she repeated herself so many times? Or is it just confusing to remember so many names, from so long ago? I remind myself that she's nearly ninety, and to take it easy. Don't ask too much. Don't upset her. Just let her be.

But she's never told these stories. No one has asked.

Although not technically her flesh-and-blood granddaughter, I am her granddaughter, nonetheless, and she is my Gram. We have lunch together quite frequently. I watch her and listen to her carefully, noticing for any changes - in her ability or her memory.

Gram is surrounded by beautiful things - things she inherited just by saying "I do" - things she doesn't even like, and yet she feels a sense of obligation to keep.

Obligation. It's a big word when she speaks it. And I just wonder if that word is more of a part of her story than what she has shared so far.

I feel this responsibility to help her tell *her story*, however much of it she wants to share. I will listen. I will help her remember. And I will write. (After all, my fingers write a whole lot better than hers.) I trust I am making a difference - I don't know if I am, though.

Each day we're given a choice.  

We can choose to keep our stories to ourselves,  
or...we can choose to share them

We can choose to keep ourselves busied by a filled calendar, 
or...we can choose to take some time and listen to someone else tell her story.  

We can be learned from, and we can learn from others. 

And in each choice, we will grow in the most beautiful and unexpected ways.


Gifts of Gratitude...

#11.  Discovering something new about someone old...

#12.  Seeing lights on in a neighbor's house and knowing [he's] well enough to be home...

#13.  A concerned mother calling in a winter storm to make sure we're all safe...she still cares...

#14.  A note from someone who was touched by my story that God told me to share...

#15.  The sound and warmth of heat in our house...

#16.  A good-kind of soreness after a good workout yesterday...

#17.  Peace in the courage to take a risk by sharing *my story*...

#18.  A fresh flow of good ideas at work...

#19.  A sweet friend for the boy...

#20.  Hug time by my boy...

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