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Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Granddaddy, Our Lives, and The Stories Waiting to be Told

On Tuesday, my Daddy and I flipped through photo albums that my aunt dropped off at his home. They'd belonged to my grandmother--Grandmomma Kelley, the matriarch of the family. They chronicled decades and included numerous photos of each of her nine grandchildren. She was one proud Grandmomma. When the great-grandchildren came along, they were included, too. A lifetime of memories. As I looked through these with Daddy, the stories they represented came alive when he began explaining the pictures. Who was in them. When they were taken. Where they were taken.

He was a military brat because my grandfather served a full career in the Air Force. In 1940, before my Daddy was born, my grandfather graduated from training as a propeller specialist. During World War II, he was stationed on an island in the Pacific working on fighter planes. Post-war, they moved to occupied Japan. The Air Force took them everywhere, resulting in my Daddy attending thirteen schools. Below is a picture of my Granddaddy in Italy in the 1950's. Original swag, huh?

As Daddy told me stories, I regretted never asking my Granddaddy about his life while he was alive. He died when I was 26. Like most young people, I was too self-absorbed as a teenager and too busy with my budding law career in my early 20's to think about the amazing stories in the hearts and memories of my family. I wish I could sit with him now and ask all the questions swirling in my mind about his experiences in the Air Force. What it was like to live during and be a part of the Pacific arena of World War II. What occupied Japan looked like. How important his country was to him that he would uproot himself and his family dozens of times. Oh how I wish I could hear his stories.

To me, he was simply Granddaddy. A man I admired and loved who always smelled of Wrigley's Spearmint Gum and had a toothpick in his mouth. Who always made me feel like I was his favorite (I later learned from my cousins that he made us all feel this way!). Who'd wink and say, "Baby, you're prettier than a Chilton County Peach."

The albums reminded me that we all have stories. Some good, some bad. Weddings, births, deaths, vacations, friends, careers, and even simple, shared moments weave together the stories of our lives. And they are each unique and worth telling.

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