My Dad

Bill WebsterIt’s a little strange to write about my Dad when I don’t even have a picture of him. At least one that’s readily available. You see, we are in the midst of moving (yes, again) and all the pictures are packed. But write about my Dad I will. It is, after all, close to  Father’s Day.

(For those of you who MUST have a visual aide to go along with this blog, I’ve gone so far as to borrow a picture of someone who looks a bit like him at least in terms of having an elder statesman like appearance.)

All things told, my Dad was a quiet, soft-spoken man. He was a genuinely nice guy. King of the one-liners, he also knew how to deliver a joke. And (lucky for me) he also understood what being a good  father entailed.

The only child of German immigrants, he was born in western Pennsylvania in 1915. The small family moved to Clifton, New Jersey when his father got a job as a city accountant. His mother taught school. His no-nonsense upbringing reflected both the times ( the Depression and World War I) and his parents’ ambition: to give their son the best education possible and send their son to college. They succeeded in both. Dad went to Newark Academy and then Princeton University. A well-liked man, he served as the class secretary for many years.

During World War II, Dad served on a naval supply ship in the Pacific Ocean. A capable, efficient man, he earned two Bronze medals. From pictures and stories that he used to tell, some of his best friends were from those days. I remember pouring over a black and white picture of my Dad and some buddies smiling and smoking pipes.

When he returned from war, he dated and then married my mother. The couple was a good match: a tall, attractive pair, they both had exceedingly smart minds. Plus their  different personalities balanced out each other.

Like my Dad’s parents, both of my parents worked as well: he as a business executive for a chemical company; my mother as a lawyer with her own private practice. My Dad provided for his family well and my brother, Tom, and I had alot of material advantages. But most importantly, we grew up in a family that loved us. I especially valued the way my father and I would communicate. Alot of it was non-verbal.  For example, as children when Tom and I rode in the back seat of the car, Dad would give me quick look in the rear view mirror just to say “hello”. And we’d both chuckle over one of his one-liners for days, reliving the punch line as we passed each other around the house.

Perhaps the greatest gift my Dad gave me was his trust. He trusted my judgement. (That doesn’t mean, however, he applauded every decision I made!). But that basic faith in me eased over many of the growing pains that typically occur between parents and their children, especially those who grew up in the Age of Aquarius and all that this time period implied. Plus my father understood the importance of cheering from the sidelines. No matter what. He also understood the importance of community and served on the Library Board for many years.

Time went on. I got older, married, and had a family of my own. There are years (sad to admit it, even decades) when I grew apart from my Dad.  However, much to my infinite relief, my Dad and I got a few years at the end of his life to reconnect. I was able to say goodbye to him, telling him that his life had indeed been a blessing as I read and re-read a particular passage in our prayer book. Although it sometimes feels like a lifetime ago, he died at peace only eight years ago in June 2006.

Do I miss him? You betcha. I especially wish I could hear his voice. Nonetheless, I still feel his spirit and his smile. In meaningful ways, he still lives on. Today, in our own ways, my brother and I try to pass his many good lessons on to our respective families. I am always mindful and grateful for the grace and example of his life well lived.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

 

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Love Stories Over Time

Danny and Annie 1

Years ago, the romantic movie, Love Story, was all the rage. Sniffling teenage girls could quote verbatim the line that Jenny (Ali MacGraw) first delivered to Ollie (Ryan O’Neal). “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” What bologna!

So what is love? Since it’s Valentine’s Day today, it’s a timely question.

There is no easy answer. It involves so many facets of behavior. And despite being married for 37 years, we are hardly experts in the field. But with that longevity, perhaps there’s some insight.

Top of the list would be the role that good communication plays. It comes in many forms: listening, speaking (and knowing when not to speak), the quick hug,and the amused look. It’s all part of the package.

In his article “Why is Listening So Important“, Dr. Don Friedman (Board Certified M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine) addresses the  key role that listening plays in a loving relationship. Listening, he argues, is the singlemost important element of a relationship because of the importance that it puts on paying attention to the other person.  Dr. Friedman continues to outline the barriers to good listening and the real benefits of active listening. If listening is open, supportive, and selfless, it offers a sense of belonging and a place where others can find identity and grow. Perhaps, Friedman wonders, that’s why God gave us two ears and one mouth–to listen rather than talk.

At Saving Memories Forever, we couldn’t agree more. Listening is an act of love.

But communication also calls for delivering a message. Delivery can take many forms as well, including the actual voice, body language, and deed. We recently came across a recording that combines all three in an audio story called “Danny and Annie“.

This story was recorded by StoryCorps, a large and public oral history project which has visited over 1,700 cities and towns across America and collected and archived more than 50,000 interviews. Each conversation is recorded and preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. Millions listen to their weekly broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition. This particular story reflects a new turn at Story Corps: it combines voice and animation.

The “Danny and Annie” recording recounts the 27-year romance between  Danny Perasa, an OTB clerk, and his wife, Annie, a nurse. The two reminisce about how they met and how they stayed in love. They have a sweetness about them that makes everyday items–like notes left around the house–seem exciting.  As the Perasas launch into their story, there’s an infectious enthusiasm that draws in listeners. Even though strangers to us, Danny and Annie personify the eloquence that can be found in the voices of everyday people when we take the time to listen.

Saving Memories Forever offers you an opportunity to do just that. Even better: you can capture and listen to the stories of your own relatives. Others apparently agree. Our service just won the Developer’s Challenge at RootsTech 2014.  Or you can click here to read our previous RootsTech blog. Sponsored by FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, Find My Past and My Heritage, RootsTech is the premiere technology conference for family historians and genealogists.

Back to the movie. Sixty year olds in your family are likely to remember the tearjerker movie, Love Story. They are also wise enough to know that the trick to romance lies more in the listening and everyday small actions of kindness than Hollywood fanfare. Ask them how they might define love. Record some of their love stories. Treat yourself to reading both Dr. Friedman’s article and listening to the video. It’s our Valentine’s Day present to you.

Jane_Harvey26d442Jane and Harvey are Co-Owners of Saving Memories Forever

Just Ask

Love.

The definition of love in the Webster dictionary is as follows:a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person.

How many people in your life do you feel a strong sense of affection for? I am sure it is a long, long list. What a perfect month for recording stories of love.

One of the things that my children have always enjoyed is hearing the stories of how the couples in our family met. They giggle with delight to this day listening to my mom and dad tell their love story.

I can remember as a little girl, lying on the floor looking up at my mother as she would do the ironing. That time with her was so precious and I would ask all kinds of questions, but one of my favorites was to ask her (over and over again) to tell me the story of how she and my dad met.

Even though I have heard this story numerous times and could repeat it by heart, I still ask.

About a year ago I was at my parents’ home and we were eating dinner. I opened my Saving Memories Forever app on my smartphone, laid it to the side and asked the very same question that I asked when I was a little girl watching my mother iron, “Tell me how you and dad fell in love.”

Now, a year later, my father has had a heart attack and my mother’s hearing has gotten worse. As time wears on I am so, so grateful to have captured that wonderful love story complete with all of their humor, giggles and very serious words towards each other as they shared the story that day.

That recording is the best Valentine’s gift I’ve ever asked for.

kim-weitkampKim Weitkamp has been featured on NPR (National Public radio), SiriusXM, and other radio stations throughout the states. Kim is passionate about the power of story and story coupled with genealogy/family history. She regularly keynotes on those topics and can be reached through her website, www.kimweitkamp.com.