Sunday, 8 February 2009

Passing It On



An author friend lost her older sister recently. Not only did she feel the loss of a dear sibling, but also the loss of the stories that disappeared with her. It reminded me of the many stories that might be locked up in the heads of our loved ones.

When I was an adolescent, my Grampy Louis Bernard told me about the day he was thrown from the back of a cart twenty miles away from the Halifax Explosion. Mom shared her childhood friendships and the songs she like to sing while sitting on the steps with her best friend Joanie (who also became an author).

Dad told me about his pet raccoon, and the time he saved his brother from falling down a mine shaft. At least, that's what I remember! I regret that his parents passed away when I was only seven or eight, but I remember a colourful story my great-uncle Edgar told about a mishap involving his wife, a carpet, and his buddies in the Royal Canadian Legion. My father was clever enough to plant a microphone on Uncle Edgar's hat during a Christmas gathering and I played that recording over and over again, enjoying Edgar's charming Acadian accent.

My adopted uncle Bob who lived next door for most of my life told me of the longest NHL playoff game. Ever. He also shared his story of the big snowstorm when he had to deliver Thanksgiving turkeys by sleigh because the roads were too bad for regular wheels. Oh, and also
the story about the skunky pony.

Some of us are eager to hear the stories of those who have walked the Earth before us, and others can't see past the arguments and misunderstandings that build up over a lifetime or two. When relatives with their own valuable experiences pass on, their memories remain locked in their brains, never to be shared with the rest of us.

If you have aunts, uncles or grandparents - or even older sisters, ask them about the things that shaped their lives. You'd be amazed at the treasures you might uncover.

Image: Louis Bernard, my grandfather on my mother's side during his youth in the early 1900's

7 comments:

Stephen Parrish said...

Ever since I lost my mother I've been coming up with questions for her. Questions about family history, my childhood, decisions she made---everything. And I can't understand why I didn't ask them while she was a live.

Of course I understand: I didn't think she was ever going to die. There was no urgency.

So after the funeral I went on a long cross-country drive with my father and interviewed him. I got jaw-dropping tidbits about family history, my childhood, and decisions he made. How I wish I could have had this opportunity with my mother and grandparents.

michelletrudeau said...

Being an only child has always made me very curious about my family tree. With a last name like Trudeau and with my grandmother passing when my fathres was 8 and then his father left my dad and his 2 other syblings in fosters care their stories were never heard. It took me 3years of internet searching and i found my Grandfathers grave in Vancouver. I have always made a point to know all I can. My mothers uncle was the last person to get of the boat when Newfoundland became a part of Canada. Wow talk about history here! Goverment sent my father a book of all the Trudeaus as they say we are related but we just dont know how?
Family is and always has been so important to me.

AstonWest said...

I always told myself I should put together all the stories that my grandfather used to tell, but never did before he died. A rather sad thing...

wordtryst said...

This is a timely reminder to me to get those memories written down.

There is so much that has already been lost, and every now and then my mother startles me with some tidbit that I never knew. The older relatives are the last real connections we have with earlier times, and we provide the last chance to chronicle them.

Chumplet - Sandra Cormier said...

This is also important with the in-laws. Both mine are gone now, but I wish the language barrier hadn't prevented me from hearing their stories about their flight from Yugoslavia back in the fifties or sixties.

Barbara Martin said...

I know quite a bit of history from my mother's side of the family back as far as 1450, but very little from my father's side.

Chris Eldin said...

I love the sepia photo of your grandfather. I think I'd frame it....
It's funny, for a myriad of reasons I won't go into here, I cannot see myself sitting and chatting with my parents like this. Though I did try to do a family tree several years ago, and skipped over my parents to get information. The stories from my Polish aunts were to die for! Very funny....