I get my love of storytelling from my dad.
He has an unreal understanding and recollection of history combined with the heart and faith and training of an Episcopal priest. All skills and soul combined, he’s always been able to capture your interest and tug at your core with his weaving of words and tales.
Last week was Saint Patrick’s Day. And so I called my dad and asked him to share stories of our family’s Irish heritage. We Facetimed him into our family dinner, and he went into storyteller mode.
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He showed the kids a photo of their great-great-great-grandfather’s citizenship papers as an Irish immigrant. He told them the name of the boat that carried their ancestors over the Atlantic. He told them who married whom when they arrived in America and what kind of lives they lived.
And about this point in the story, it started to take a heavier turn. A real turn.
He shared how difficult it was to get by as new immigrants. How hard they worked. How many strides they made. But also, how tough and tragic life can be . . . and definitely was back then. He told them how his father who was born in 1912, lost his own father when he was a young toddler to pneumonia.
And how his grandmother, my children’s great-great-grandmother, was forced to send my grandfather away at just two years old because she couldn’t financially support the family after the loss of her husband.
The story continued, and because he’s a beautiful storyteller, he was able to relay that despite all the hardship as immigrants, their heritage was always defined by great character.
Later, I cleaned up the table from dinner and stood at the kitchen sink doing the dishes. And, I cried my eyes out. I sobbed. As a mother, as a wife, I can’t imagine the pain of losing your partner followed immediately by the unimaginable forced choice of having to send your baby away simply to keep him fed. I cried for my great-grandmother. I cried for my grandfather.
I cried for the stories that weave our very existence, that too often go untold.
This is our fabric! These are our people! This is our history!
This is our story. And the beauty of a generational story is just that, it’s never ending.
That night, my kids were able to listen to the tales of their ancestors first coming to this country. And connect to those who have come before them and whose strength and footsteps still pave their way.
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Find your story, my friends.
I don’t know why, but families just don’t talk enough—there simply isn’t enough storytelling and history sharing. Call the grandparents. Facetime your parents at your dinner table. Look up and dig up what you can.
There are so many beautiful, tragic, triumphant, and amazingly ordinary and relatable stories that are part of your tapestry waiting to be shared.
And you want to know what? My grandfather’s story took a tangent after his mother was forced to give him away at just two years old. Because at three years old, he navigated the New York City subway system by himself and went home to his momma. And there he stayed.
Originally published on the author’s Facebook page