Stories. Each and every one of us is full of stories. Stories of what defines us, stories that have shaped us into the person we have grown into, and stories to teach and entertain others. Stories are such an essential part of human nature. They bind us together and give us a common ground to share our experiences with. I have been a classroom teacher for 10 years. I have taught 2nd grade for seven years, 1st grade for 2 years, and 3rd grade this past year. I have been a teacher of writing and mentoring my students on how to write their stories. We have delved into creating memoirs that were meaningful, but there was always something missing. I modeled what a narrative should look like, but I always kept a lid on getting too personal. Until this year…I opened up, I showed children that not all stories are happy and it’s ok. Instead of modeling, I tried to mentor and wear my heart on my sleeve more.
I would often write stories down in my journal and share them with the kiddos. I wrote about the day of my father’s funeral and how we crested the hill at the cemetery and were met with a Naval Color Guard. I told them the story of how I met my sweet kitty boy, Fred. How I went to the shelter looking for a cat, and I’m pretty sure this one-eyed cutie picked me!! Because I chose to mentor, rather than model, my kiddos were always asking me if I had “written” today and if I would read it to them. It was pretty cool, they were wanting to hear MY story, instead of stories written by famous authors. Why? It was personal and they knew it came from my heart.
So, with this post today, I want to share a story with you. It’s a love story. It’s a story my sisters, brother, kids, nieces, nephews, friends…anyone who had contact with my family…heard. Over. And. Over. And. Over. It’s called……..
My dad had Alzheimer’s. It silently stole his memories from him. But the one memory that remained with him almost until the end was The Love Story. The story of how him and his beloved Mary met. With the progression of the disease, the time line of the story changed, but the general basis of the circumstances in which they met remained the same. That story has been silenced for almost 4 years, and I only hear it in my memories. We used to hear his love story many times a day. Momma died 3 years before Daddy and he missed her so much. I’m pretty sure his drive to tell the story over and over was his way of allowing that one memory to never fade.
Daddy was in the Navy during the Korean Conflict. He enlisted in the Navy right after he graduated high school in 1951. After basic training, he was stationed in California and was a gunnersmate aboard the USS Hamner. He was from Texas and my mom was from Kansas City. In 1952, Momma went to Long Beach, California with a friend to be an attendant in her wedding. Her friend was marrying a shipmate of my Dad’s.
Clayton Strong was a shipmate of Daddy’s and was a good buddy. He attended the wedding my mom was in and was immediately drawn to her. When he returned to the ship he told Daddy that he met this pretty girl and wondered if he would like to meet her. My father’s response was, “Hell yeah! I want to meet a pretty girl, you know, I’m a horny old sailor!”. If my mom heard him refer to himself as a “horny old sailor”, she would have surely knocked him silly!
Daddy was smitten with her right away and they quickly got married. He used to tell us that “I had to get my momma’s permission to marry this pretty girl. I mean, I was in the war, killing people, and I had to get her permission to get married. Well, when I told momma that Mary Lou was Catholic, my momma said ‘Are you sure you wanna marry her? She’s Catholic and can’t get divorced?'” This is where Daddy would pause and giggle then finish by saying, “Momma, I don’t want to divorce her, I want to MARRY her.” Grandma must have finally consented because, two weeks later, on August 12, 1952, they were at the courthouse in Long Beach, California getting married. And the rest is history. 56 years, 5 children, 13 grandchildren, and 8 great-grandchildren. I would say that’s a great history!!!!
Thanks for listening to my story today. I have been missing mom and dad so much lately, and I especially miss hearing Daddy’s voice telling “The Story”. Please keep your stories alive. There are people who can’t wait to hear your stories.