My father proposed to my mother on an October night in 1951 bearing seemingly heavy news.
He was 20. She was 18. They sat outside my mom’s parents’ Tulsa, Okla., home in the 1939 Chevy Sedan Delivery my dad drove home on a weekend from medical school in Chicago.
“I want you to marry me,” he said. “But before you answer me, you need to know we’ll never have a place to call home.”
That would be true over the next 25 years, though not in the way they imagined.
I now know much more about the depth of his childhood ambition to be a medical missionary in Africa and the mission-like life they instead lived with the U.S. Indian Health Service.
I know more about my father’s surprise at how swiftly the government orders came to move on and my valiant mother’s willing recklessness to cart her children — there would be seven of us — from Oklahoma to North Carolina, Washington, Montana, South Dakota, Oregon, Oklahoma again and Arizona.
I’ve learned so much more about Jack and Cathy simply because I asked.
I asked. They shared stories. I took notes. I asked more questions.
I started writing.
And in so doing, I practiced what a couple of Kansans are promoting as a fabulous learning experience for all students.
Rolland Love had for several years been traveling to senior citizen groups and encouraging people to write down their stories.
Then the idea struck him: Children should be writing these stories of their parents and grandparents.
When he shared his idea with Mark Andresen, they teamed up and created a free website to help people chronicle their lives at www.imastory.com.
However you get started, Andresen said, just get started.
Now they’re talking to teachers.
Schools could take it on, dispatching students to interviewing projects that teach research and composition.
There are history and social studies lessons in play. Even possibilities in art, photography and multimedia projects.
But the best part, Love said, is we preserve life stories that otherwise are lost.
“We talk all the time, but we just share surface things,” Love said. “We never really find out things.”
If we take time to write our richer, purposeful conversations, he said, “great things can be accomplished between parents and children.”
My mother had set up home in her sixth state in less than 10 years when my dad brought by a visitor the government was assigning there as well.
At some point later she learned that the man didn’t come after all. His wife didn’t want to make the move.
She laughed remembering her reaction at the time.
“I was surprised anyone would do that,” she said.
Just not go?
It didn’t fit my parents’ story. They led a whole different adventure instead.
And we loved talking about it.