My father and father-in-law were part of what Tom Brokaw has called the Greatest Generation. My father died in 2002 and my father-in-law, Walt, turned 90 in April. In many ways they were dissimilar. My father-in-law, despite a Republican upbringing on the prairie of Idaho, is extremely liberal politically. My father was terribly conservative. But their similarities were probably greater.
Both my father and father-in-law were raised in the country—my father in the Missouri Ozarks, Walt in Nez Pierce, ID—without electricity and indoor plumbing. Both had families that struggled with the Great Depression, but perhaps not as much as city folks since neither family had enjoyed a great deal of money prior to 1929. Both fought in WWII, my father in the Navy, Walt in the Army. Both left memoirs.
Because my husband’s work hours have changed and after 19 years of marriage he’s home in the evenings disrupting my routine. What to do with Dave? I hit on an idea that will keep us busy for at least the summer and maybe for the rest of our lives.
I love being read to. It’s my parents fault, especially my father’s. Although he traveled a great deal for the Boeing Company he recorded some of my favorite stories on reel-to-reel tape and left it and a company tape recorder for my mother to play the tape at bedtime during the months of his absence. It wasn’t that she couldn’t have read to me and she did, but I loved the sound of my father’s voice. I love the sound of my husband’s voice as well. His brother is a radio reporter for KIRO in Seattle. Dave could have done that, too.
Bingo! I remembered that Walt had given us a copy of his memoir, but I had never read it. Dave’s never read my dad’s either. I asked him if he would mind reading to Walt’s to me each night and then we’d read my father’s. He was more than willing. A tradition was born. It gives my husband pleasure to read his father’s words—he’s a very funny man in the bargain—and me pleasure to learn new things about him.
We are finding things that Dave had forgotten from his first reading and making notes with questions to ask Walt. I’m sorry that any new questions I find when we read my dad’s will come too late. So for Father’s Day we are going to the in-laws and ask about the card gave “Forty-two.”