Our relationship to family stories changes over the years.
When we are kids, our main job is to absorb the tales.
Assuming one is capable of sitting still for a few minutes, that’s pretty simple. You listen and occasionally ask a question.
“Why did he do that?”
“What year would that have been?”
“Did that really happen?”
Then, after a few years, our role shifts. It becomes our job to sigh, roll our eyes and note that everyone has heard the story a hundred times.
Often, that phase doesn’t last long. When we get a little older and wiser, we learn that family is not something to take for granted. We realize the stories older relatives tell now belong to us, too.
Next comes the nod and smile stage. Instead of questions, our comments become affirmations.
“Wish I had known her.”
“He worked hard every day of his life.”
“They didn’t know who they were dealing with. Guess they figured it out.”
Eventually, of course, we become the storytellers. And it is up to us to pass along these tales of our grandparents’ courage, an aunt’s sense of humor or the heroic loyalty of a long-gone family dog.
It is an important role, one that should be embraced with pride.
The transition happens so fast, or so it seems. One day you are a kid, hearing something for the first time. Then, seemingly in a blink, you are the one children approach.
“Did Grandpa ever talk about the war?”
The decades grant you the right to answer. The love that lifted you up gives you the poise to do so.
Small World Department: Spokane’s Greg Ryan was an engineer on a U.S. Navy nuclear submarine in 1979. The USS Seadragon was on patrol beneath the surface of the Pacific when Ryan struck up a conversation with a fellow crew member, the watch electrician. That guy turned out to be from Spokane, too. “Furthermore, we found that our grandparents lived next door to each other in Wilbur, Wash.”
Today’s Slice question: How many people in the Spokane area refer to a neighbor’s dogs as the Bumpus hounds?