Remembering good times
A few years after first arriving in Minot during 1977, my grandmother passed away. In the years that followed, I traveled to Nebraska to visit my grandfather when possible. We loved to play cribbage and often just sat in his living room or backyard, mostly as he talked and I listened. I recall frequently thinking to myself, Granddad, you’ve told me that story many times. Don’t you remember? But, I never spoke the words to him.
Reminiscing over Grandmother during one visit, he said, “In 62 years of marriage, your grandmother and I only had one argument.”
“Really,” I replied? “What was that all about?”
“Well, your grandmother answered the phone one day when someone from the church called. Whoever it was asked if we would stand outside the sanctuary before the service and greet everyone the following Sunday. She told them that we would.” The statement surprised me, as I had never heard a sharp word of any kind spoken between them over more than 30 years.
A week later I shared the conversation with my mother, asking if Granddad’s memory was what she remembered. Mother’s response was, “Oh, I think sometimes we remember things how we want to.”
Now, as a grandfather, I find myself telling my own stories repeatedly to friends or family, often interjecting, “…have I told you this before? If so, just stop me.” I have also come to better understand that story telling in retirement has a lot to do with remembering the things as we want to – especially those with elements we might enjoy reliving, if it were possible.
Oh sure, there are those memories we would just as soon forget, but can’t. A perfect example is the time I walked up to Mrs. Moody’s house in 1963 to lay the evening newspaper on her step. A widow, Mrs. Moody was probably in her 90s. As I neared her porch, she opened the door, came outside and reached out to take the paper from me. She didn’t have a stitch of clothing on. At age 13, I wasn’t exactly prepared for such a wrinkled and leathery spectacle.
As much as I might like to forget the sight now, erasing it from memory just isn’t possible.
I can’t help but wonder nowadays what memories our four grandchildren (five soon) might someday share with their friends and family about me after I’m gone. It seems best to keep some things to myself – like when my bowels forsook me on a ride in a rental car. Or, perhaps the time I agreed to dress as Elvis Presley to visit the post office the first day the postage stamp with his image went on sale. “Hello baby,” I said in my best Elvis voice to a woman in line there. “Can you tell me where I can buy some stamps?”
Or, maybe they would tell others about when I placed a radio with the volume at full blast in the crawl space under our cabin at the lake and left it there for a week. After learning online that raccoons want a quiet place to nest, I thought country music of Brooks and Dunn and Willie Nelson blaring would drive the varmints out. It didn’t work. Evidently everyone but me knows raccoons love country music.
I guess I’ll just keep telling stories like Mother said – as I like to remember them. I’ll also hope our grandchildren will do me the favor of not saying, “Grandpa, you’ve told that story already!”