Storytelling + Community Building
Memorial weekend is a very special weekend. Sometimes people think it is about bar-b-que and picnic baskets, but to me, it is about having the opportunity to connect, and to remember. Memorial day is about, after all, the memorialization of those who have served, paying the ultimate sacrifice for our Country. It seems different for me, personally, because I have lost people over Memorial Day weekend, and so I think of it in a different way, but I wanted to take a moment to share something with you all, that is a bit different.
Over the MLK weekend, my husband and I flew out to Denver to visit with my grandfather, who will be 95 this June. Special, right? My grandpa is one of the most interesting, industrious, generous and kind men I have ever known and I have said before to many people, that I think that my husband has many of the endearing traits that my grandpa does, which is likely why I chose him as my partner in life… My grandparents were married for more than 66 years and last year was the first year that my grandpa spent without my grandmother in their home in Arvada on his own. He has my uncle, who lives close-ish and my mother and my Aunt who check in regularly at 6:30 and 7:30pm every day to see how his day went. He also has a woman who comes and spends the afternoon with him and cleans the house and makes sure he has everything that he could possibly need, and they have long chats about everything under the sun. Apparently, this is what keeps my grandpa happy, the story sharing, and mostly the fact that he is still in his own home, the home that he and his wife of nearly seven decades raised their three amazing children in. He is completely adorable in his habits. He has his phone calls, his horn (he is a beloved musician across the country and locally in the Denver area) and he has his chats with his grandkids, Kate (the woman who does his in-home care), and friends whom he has great and long-lasting connections with, some spanning the same nearly 66 years of friendship that he had with my grandmother. How beautiful is that? Pretty-darned terrific, if you ask me.
Storytelling is not a lost art, but it is certainly something that I have found that people are making less and less time for, especially with the people of our greatest generation and with the added caveat of in-your-face-technology. As my husband and I sat and listened to my grandpa share stories of his childhood, some of which were entirely new to me. For instance, I never knew that he went to live with a neighbor whom after The Crash, and none of the originally family members are still living. I also came learn how he learned to play the horn; he would sit under the window of his neighbor’s home who was practicing, until, completely annoyed with the little boy sitting under his window, the neighbor finally invited him in and taught him to play on a banged-up old horn that my grandpa would then carry to school in a brown paper bag.
As for the stories of being a young, newly commissioned officer in the South Pacific during World War II- goodness gracious! He and his friends, Bunny and gang got into what seemed more trouble and found ways to pass the time with fun than anything else. They were the buglers and Army band who were definitely a tight group of young men during an interesting time of our history.
I had no idea he had lived in Hollywood, and had even been a cab driver there to pick up extra money while between gigs as a union band member. He lived in Long Island, New York, Vermont, New Guinea, Hollywood and Denver… and did he ever work hard. This man was a teacher, a National Guard member, an Army Veteran, a Junior Police Band Director, Race-track Bugler, Private musician tutor, Board member for the Musicians Guild, band conductor, husband, father and I know I am missing something!
Listening to his stories, I was trying to see what I could glean from every one of them, and I think what I was hearing was that you can’t get back time. You must do what you love and surround yourself with people that are smarter than you are and you can’t always depend on just yourself… it takes community, especially in tough times, but you can’t take yourself too darned seriously. Talking about his best friend, my grandma, he shared the story about how they met, after a night of flying around Denver with one of his bandmates and ex-army buddies, he went to the Rainbow Room in Denver, and saw the prettiest lady in the room, who happened to be out on a date. He approached her and told her she should probably tell that gent to go on home early so they could go out together… Well, she did exactly that, and the rest is history. So, another moral… you can’t be afraid to go after what you want, even it if is a little bit scary.
I hope you’ll take some time to do a little storytelling of your own, when the time comes, or offer an ear to those who need to share, to memorialize. It can be fun, and you might take something away with it. – Genevieve