One of my favorite things to do is listen to stories I’ve never heard. Many times those stories are told by those who are older than I am but there’s also many stories that are told from those the same age or younger than me. When I was a little girl, my grandfather would tell me stories that were of his childhood. He had a lot of older sisters. He was used to strong women because he had been blessed being raised by them. He had an older sister named Kate, and another named Helen. There were other siblings but for the life of me I can’t recall their names. Anyways, he told me how his sisters taught him respect. I’m not quite sure about how much of a troublemaker my grandfather was but I suspect he was a handful. He often told me of the sacrifices his siblings made while raising him since his mother died when he was young. He would tell stories of how he would sneak up on his siblings and drive them crazy with his antics. It’s hard for me to envision him doing any of the things he told. To me, he was my grandfather. He was fiercely protective of the girls in the family and yet he adored the fact that I loved to do things the boys would do. It crushed me when he died. He had been a smoker since he was nine and died in his seventies. But to me, the stories he told of malt shops, fast cars, furniture, and whiskey will forever remain in my heart.
Most grandparents, in fact all grandparents were at one time young. They all experienced things and still experience things that the story books won’t tell. Some of them are famous. Some, no one will ever really know their stories. We all have a little bit of rebel in us. When I was about sixteen or seventeen, I snuck out of the house. We were all out until about 5:00 in the morning just before my mom went to work. We had a blast. It was a different time. You didn’t have to worry about locking your doors at night. You didn’t have to worry about being shot over something petty. Gangs were pretty much nonexistent at that point. Me, my best friend and two other guys went joyriding almost all night. There was a thrill in that moment that can’t be really defined. What was defined was the exhilaration of the night air slapping me in the face as I drove. The laughing and boisterous sounds that came from the car as we jammed to the music at full blast. The city lights dimly lit and the fact that virtually nothing was open didn’t stop us from feeling as if no one could stop us. It was a time of innocence being lost and found. Of discovery and spirit coming alive. That night was not one of passion with boys. At the time, we were just out for fun in the night.
Then as I grew up, things changed. I had a crew of friends that was extremely eclectic. Some were wealthy, some dirt poor, and some looked as if they should have been on the fashion magazines of GQ and Vogue. During my early twenties we were all thick as thieves. There was a local Putt Putt that we all hung out at. I was dating a man that would eventually become my husband. The ironic thing was that we have so many stories that could be told just off our adventures from there. The owners wife was a stern older woman that made many of us feel that she hated all of us. She probably did. My boyfriend was an Assistant Manager of sorts. I don’t know that he ever got that title but he was entrusted to run the place when the manager was off duty. There were many nights where he would close up the store and let all of us play video games after hours. This became a fun thing for all of us because I was working the night shift at a local hospital. One day the owners wife had made my boyfriend and several of my friends mad so when the store was closed, a very good friend of ours took a dare to use the bathroom in one of the holes on the green. Gross. He did. We were all in disbelief and then he came up and asked if we all had any toilet paper. After we were all trying to recover from laughter and disbelief, the next day, the owner found out about it and told my boyfriend to clean it up. He sent another worker out there to take care of this task. It’s been years since all that happened. While I know it wasn’t right, it doesn’t take away from the fact that it happened. That establishment no longer exists in this area that I currently reside but the reality is that there were so many stories that happened.
Then there were other stories of things that happened with various customers. I used to work for a local fast food chain. Never let anyone tell you that working in fast food is easy. It’s not. People who work in those industries put up with a lot for not much money. It might be getting better but unless you’ve worked in a food industry, you have no concept of how people leave messes for you to clean. Especially on Friday and Saturday nights when teenagers raid the burger joints after games. Now, granted, COVID-19 has dramatically altered things but in the 80’s and 90’s I can truthfully attest to how some of the kids thought that they were better than those working in these environments. They would smear their food all over the tables, create a ton of messes, make fun of the employees and try to get employees either fired or egg them on to get a poor attitude. Some of them were throwing their trash all over the parking lot for the employees to clean up and I can’t even begin to tell you how many sexual innuendos were made. You would have thought it was a meat market for picking up dates. The point is that many of the folks working in establishments like this are just trying to earn a living. They don’t need the additional problems.
Then I remembered other stories. These are the kinds of stories that make you believe in love. I remember my grandfather telling me about the first time he ever saw my grandmother. He was hooked. They were so young when they got together. They lived a lifetime of fifty years of married life. They spent time in Mississippi and NC. They never had a easy life. There was a lot of arguments, love, and determination to make things work but they stuck it out. My grandfather wasn’t an easy man. Oh, sure, to me how was wonderful but he was tough on his kids and marriage to my grandmother was a struggle. My grandmother had been very beautiful when they were younger. From my understanding, she was being courted by some of the more prominent men in their community. She chose love and it was only after my grandfather’s death that she began to find her own identity. She loved her boys dearly and loved her grandchildren but she was her own person and had never been able to truly find who she was because she was always labeled by her marriage or parenthood. That’s one of the reasons I detest labels. They only label a portion of a person. It’s impossible to label a person by all their qualities. That’s why stories are so important. They show what makes all of us up. Personalities are formed by circumstances. Impressions are made and they help us to form our opinions and help to define the future for us. That can be built of positive and negative reactions.
When my grandfather would take me fishing, I hated putting on the worm. It still isn’t my favorite thing but I’m no longer skid dish of worms. If anything, it’s gotten to be therapeutic. One day grandpa and I were on the beach fishing. He kept trying to get me to learn patience. He used to say if you rush fishing, then you are never gonna catch a fish that’s worthwhile. All you’ll do is either get a small fish or something that would never qualify as a fish. He would say that life was like fishing. If you keep trying to go after the “big one”, eventually you’ll get a bite. What you do with that bite is up to you. You can either reel it in or risk losing it because you aren’t willing to wait. There was a lot of wisdom in what he said. He told me about his reckless behavior and how his sisters knew what he was doing sometimes even before he did it. He told me of moonshine runs that he knew about and also told me that if I was willing to listen to what was around me, that I could literally hear stories come to life.
I was sitting in a coffee shop about a year ago and I was listening to these two women who worked in the medical field. Being a doctor, nurse, or any health care worker is not a simple task. They deal with people who are already scared. They find ways of putting people at ease and then have the task of getting them well. They were discussing a patient who had made an impact on their memories. This patient had given birth in her car to twins. It wouldn’t have been so memorable except the woman thought she was only having two babies but as soon as they got her out of the car, she gave birth to a third child. Two boys, one girl. Talk about a surprise.
We all have stories that we’ve heard that haven’t been documented and unless we write them down, will never be remembered. I’ll tell you about the night I got married in another blog. I should have known the marriage was doomed from the start but that’s another story for another day. Just know that life is always going to give us interesting material to learn from. The question is will we make sure that we record it in some manner that we can learn from the good and bad things in our lives? I look forward to hearing more stories that can be told from you and others. Something tells me that there are some very interesting stories just waiting to be told.