In what would be the final years of her life, I often asked my mother what she wanted for Christmas. The reply was often the same: “I just want my children around me.”
I was 36 when she died and I guess I was too young to completely understand that. Not anymore.
I enjoy just seeing those I love and having a good conversation.
You may remember a conversation. It was a time when people actually verbalized between each another. It did not involve text messages.
My mama was a character. A doctor who treated her told me that he used to pencil in extra time for her appointment because they would talk about things and he knew it was therapeutic for her.
Extra time — now there’s a concept we could put to use. Sometime it just feels good to sit and enjoy each other’s company.
At Thanksgiving, my nephew brought me my dad’s Army ribbons. He never knew his paternal grandfather and we talked about him. My dad didn’t talk much about his Army service. He was proud to have served his country, but talking about the war was not something he wanted to do.
With the help of a retired Army colonel, I learned something about dad I never knew. He was not just the recipient of a single Purple Heart, but actually was awarded three of them, plus a Bronze Star for valor. This simple and quiet man who gave me his life and his name was a decorated hero. I loved him dearly, but now I stand in awe of him.
It was sort of an early Christmas gift. It was as if he had come to visit me again.
I’ve spent some extra time just looking at the ribbons that tell a story I might not have known.
I have a fourth great-grandfather who died in the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse in Virginia during the War Between the States.
I was walking last week through an airport in Virginia and my feet were hurting. Then, I thought of Green William Blackwood. He walked all the way from Georgia to Virginia in shoes that weren’t as good as mine and on roads and trails that were just rough places in the woods. My feet didn’t hurt as bad.
Somehow, we must tell the story of our families to our children. I have learned about relatives in conversations at funerals, front porches and family reunions. The stories can be funny or poignant, but they are a snapshot of those who came before us.
God has given me the gift of being a pretty good storyteller, or so I’m told. I love hearing and retelling the stories of those who lived and loved through the depths of the Great Depression and lived through the hell of a brutal war.
Some were pillars of the church. Others might have slipped out behind a giant oak in the churchyard and shared a drink of hooch. All were special in their own way.
I have a cousin whose wife is expecting twins next year. She asked me for a list of names of some ancestors as they decide what to call the next generation. She doesn’t want to name them something from a tabloid or a soap opera.
One day, they too will hopefully tell the stories of their family on a day when they just want their children around them.
Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.