Passing down stories

August 25, 2011

I spent the day visiting my 79 year-old father. We spent the afternoon looking at pictures. Each picture refreshed his memory and he regaled us with stories of his horse racing days.

From the time I started school, my dad raced standardbred horses. He owned, trained, and drove the horses in races across the country. Sometimes, he even went into the States. He was prematurely retired due to an accident that involved a number of horses during a race. Unfortunately for my dad, he was at the bottom of the pile. His body is falling about, but his mind and his spirit are strong.

I remember the earlier horses. The ones the family dreamed would be the big winners. There are pictures of the entire family standing around the horse in the winner’s circle, posing for the winning photograph. My dad did set a few records. Some of those records still stand today.

Storytelling is a wonderful tool for families. Regardless of the distance separating us, or the restrictions on our lives because of poor health, as long as we can share stories, we have something to talk about.

My dad has lived a hard life. He left home before he would even be considered a “teenager.” His life on the road before he got married, and his working years after he got married and had children, are filled with adventures and twists. He has seen a lot of people come and go in his life.

As unique and interesting as my life is, my dad likely has seen many who have lived similar lives. And even though he is interested in my updates, it is his voice that dominates the conversation. More of his stories are shared than mine. I don’t have the experience and life history that he does. I can only listen in amazement at what has gone on in his life, both before I was born and since.

Parents want their adult children to attend college even if the young adults don’t know what they want to study. Even if they don’t know what career they want to pursue. The motivation behind the parents’ push to have their adult children continue in school is to broaden their minds. Colleges and universities are excellent venues for broadening the mind. For the young adult to be exposed to a greater variety of lifestyles, perspectives, and choices than the parents and communities were able to provide.

Perhaps parents should send their young adult children to the seniors’ homes instead. Have them spend time on a weekly basis listening to the stories of the elderly in the community. Or better yet, listening to the stories of their own grandparents, if possible. These individuals have often lived lives far different from those of their children and grandchildren. They have experienced events and dealt with issues that we will never have to face. They have taken advantage of opportunities that were one of a kind in history.

My dad’s stories provide me with a window into a world that is foreign to me. A window through which I can view events that exist outside of my consciousness, that were not part of my lifestyle. His stories help me to see the many different facets of people, the many different paths that exist, and the many different choices available. They challenge my own perspectives. They expose the incongruences that exist in my mind. Much like my early college days did.

All I had to do was listen. And absorb. The stories did the rest. And because they are part of my family’s history, they will remain with me. Over time, I will revisit them, turn them over in my mind. Ponder on them. Relate them to my current life. And allow myself to feel the low, almost indiscernible, beat that connects me to my family’s roots.

To see what a standardbred race actually is, follow this link:

The following link shows an accident that is similar to the one my dad was involved in (although not the same accident):

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