We’re never too old for a history lesson.
Bring together seven mostly middle-aged men, my dad, and some party food, and what do you call it? No, it’s not a football party. Call it a World War II history lesson in a living room.
All it takes is someone wanting to listen, who wants to know what it was like not from a writer of a history book, not from the narrator of a history show (which are great places to learn from, too), but from the mouth of someone who lived it. My 95 year-old dad.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, my brother invited seven of his guy friends and family over to listen to my dad tell a story. The telling of his service in World War II.
I was told the guys were excited to hear dad’s story. So excited in fact that when my brother had to cancel the first time this get together was scheduled, because of my brother’s daughter going into labor, that one of his friends asked him “Ah, Ray do you really have to go to the hospital?”
For many of my younger years my dad did not talk about his war experiences. I knew he had served, but it wasn’t until I was older that the stories started to emerge from him: his ride on the Queen Mary going over to England; the surprise talk from General Eisenhower to about 20 soldiers, including my dad, about the upcoming invasion (which later became known as the Normandy Invasion); Invasion of Normandy Beach on day 2; reconnaissance missions he went on in enemy territory; being an honor guard during the meeting of the Americans and Russians; fighting at the Battle of the Bulge; walking up to the gates of a concentration camp; and riding through the streets during the liberation of France and watching the French cheer. These are just a few of the stories from his recollection. It’s hard to believe when you hear it first hand.
At the get-together my dad started off at the beginning, talking about being drafted, basic training, etc… and continued through the timeline of service. Everyone was able to ask questions along the way. He showed the guys his war scrapbook of pictures, medals, and souvenirs. I understand the guys were so interested in what was said, no one got up to get any snacks.
You must know that my dad is not a speaker. He’s always the quiet one in the room. So when I asked him how the get-together went he just said, “I had to do all the talking!”
My brother videotaped this session with my dad so none of it will be forgotten.
So many lessons can be learned from our older generation.
Get your family together for a history lesson with an older family member. Here are some things to get you started on your own history lesson:
- Start asking questions about their life, their experiences, and what they remember. Start reminiscing not only with questions, but with things like photographs, souvenirs, things tucked away in boxes, jewelry, etc… Look at things that might spark a memory. Check out these reminiscing questions to get you started.
- Plan it! Plan a get-together with friends and family and make it a focus of your time together. Bring the photographs, and other things that might make it easier to remember and might make it more interesting.
- Record it with videotape, journaling, photographs, etc…
- Get-togethers, like the one my brother had may not be for everyone. Take into consideration that an older family member may have difficulty in remembering, or become emotional. For some family members just some brief moments of reminiscing might work. Everyone is different.