Saturday, January 27, 2007

What stories would you tell?

Approximately 15 years ago, I asked my Dad to make an audio tape about his growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania and then to continue it with his stories as the master sergeant to an airplane repair crew that followed Patton through Europe. He landed on D-Day plus 5, endured the Battle of the Bulge by covering their Jeeps and trucks with tarp and waiting out the days snow-covered under a roadway as the Germans passed overhead. Only as an adult did I learn he had gone into the concentration camp at Bergen Belsen. He mentioned it once. There were no guns in our house and with the exception of seeing his temper once, he was--and still is--the mildest mannered red-haired man I've ever met.

I wanted those stories on tape. I wanted to preserve them beyond my memory. He was reluctant, citing that he didn't own an audio cassette recorder. I offered to solve that problem for him. He rolled his eyes and did me one better when that fall, he sat down in front of a video camera and told me stories for my Christmas present. That's how the tag on the side of the cassette reads: "Things I remember about my childhood--a gift to my daughter Kay with love from Dad". I told him he need spend no money on me that Christmas and so he spent something far more precious, his time.

That's all he talked about, his childhood. Eighteen years of stories told over three hours. Three. I was astonished. From his first memory of his mother bending over the kettle at the fireplace because there wasn't a cook stove to the dog diving into the creek to save his brother from drowning to the debacle of stealing a pie from his grandmother and having his grandfather stalk the guilty party--he told stories for 3 hours. He ran out of patience just as he was entering the Army Air Corps. He never sat down to do another tape.

Now, he has Alzheimer's and it is woefully too late.

As I'm transferring these stories to DVD, I pause and wonder: If I were to do the same thing, could I fill three hours with stories from my childhood? I don't think so, but gives me pause to think about it and reflect.

Could you?

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