Growing up, I listened to my grandfather tell his war stories. His airplane had been hit by flak, a shell that exploded into a thousand shards and ripped through the fuselage. Shrapnel struck his leg and left raised scars that I marveled at. Shrapnel ripped apart his copilot’s head.
This is a wild and emotional story. I feel it in my body, a physical response. It really is more of an impression than a narrative brimming with specific details. Whenever I’ve tried to retell this tale of my grandfather in action, it sounds like a lame game of telephone. I can’t make the listener feel the way I felt when Grandpa told it.
This is the difference between a story you hear and a story you read:
The details exist forever on the page. You can revisit them. In all the years I listened to Grandpa in awe, I only digested the broad strokes. I was too busy feeling to remember it all. Not until we set his story in writing was I able to more fully absorb the particulars:
Grandpa was in such shock that it was only when the doctor ordered him to down a cup of scotch that he realized a five-inch blade of shrapnel jutted from his leg; rushing to surgery, Grandpa asked that they not notify his mother, but they sent a telegram anyway; Grandpa felt a duty to write a letter to his deceased copilot’s family.
These are only a few of the many important details we captured for his memoir. They help bring the story to life. Let’s get these things written down. They deserve it.
Every now and then, I like to write a blog on a topic relevant to LifeStory and the notion that immortalizing our stories in print is invaluable to future generations.