I have mentioned having thoughts about aging. They become unavoidable the older you get. Actually, it comes as a surprise sometimes to still be alive. Your past is so much longer than the anticipated future and you know it. Hence the temptation to turn to the past becomes so great. You fear it will all be lost unless you can somehow stamp it in the minds of the next generations. I recall the time one of my grandfathers set me down and said “Now listen carefully. This is important.” He told all about Sgt. York in World War I and I tried hard to listen. I’m sorry to say that I had forgotten most of the details when I read later about World War I, but I always will remember there was an important Sgt. York.
I have been recalling other stories that my grandparents told me. Since I am almost ninety years of age, it is obvious they were about long ago. My other grandfather was born in 1860, and one of the stories he told took place when he was four year old. This was one of his favorite stories because he was so young at the time but remembered it so vividly. He said his mother had acted very strangely one day. She had gone out and had let the screen door slam behind her, though she was already running through the yard gate by the time he heard the door slam. He started running after her, but she was now into the field to the back and side of the house, running faster than his four year old legs could hope to go. His tears began to gather. He cried for his mother. He sobbed and screamed. His mother had never acted this way before and especially like this–ignoring his crying need for her. He could only wonder what was going on.
When little Simon finally stopped, looking through his tears, he could see two people coming his way. It was a bit puzzling until he could see that it was his mother with her arm around a man clad in soldier clothes. It was his Daddy!!!!!!! The year was 1864. Daddy was coming home from his service in the Civil War. No letter, no telegram, no telephone call had announced his coming. His mother knew when she looked out toward the field through which he would be returning and saw him, that he had made it through the war. My grandfather could later certainly understand his mother’s action. When I later studied about the Civil War, I found it much more interesting by having heard my grandfather’s story.
One of my grandmother’s childhood stories that greatly impressed me and still amazes me until this day is about one of her experiences when she was very little. Remember, she lived in the midwest, in Illinois. Grandmother thought she was probably in the first grade or so when she was trudging home from school through the woods with three of her five brothers. Henry, her oldest brother had died at the age of 14 when she was around 4 years of age. Sam was the only brother younger than she. Since he was 2 years younger than she, he was not in school as yet. Laura, my grandmother was the one last in line as she trudged at her own pace the path that was a shortcut home. As she walked along alone, gently swinging her dinner bucket, she heard an odd noise behind her in the trees. Looking up, she saw a panther looking as if it were ready to pounce. Grandmother did not remember being afraid. She took off her bonnet and waved it at the panther. As she told me, she had no idea why she did that. It might have signaled an attack. Instead, grandmother just went on home. I decided that the panther sensed what a wonderful, sweet, loving person that little girl was and would always be and let her live to become my grandmother!
As we try to encourage the preservation of more animals in our environments, this memory of grandmother’s sticks in my mind. It appears that this urge to preserve the past has a value and is not just a useless feature of senility. Whether it be for an appreciation of nature, of our loved ones who are safe and healthy, or simply an appreciation of where we have come from, the act of recalling and sharing is something that binds us together and to the great story that goes on and on…