I had the opportunity this past week to interview a 94-year-old man who was born in Austria, primarily raised in Hungary, and later immigrated to the United States. His story was fascinating, and it was my job to take his life story and condense it to 1500 words for an article that will go in a southeastern Minnesota publication called Today Magazine.
Frank, the man I interviewed, believes everyone should write down their life’s story for their family to have after they’ve passed on. He wrote his at the request of his granddaughter. His original writing was about 50 pages, but then he decided he really had more stories to share and things he wanted to say, so he kept adding to it. Today, his book is over 300-pages and filled with pictures and stories that are frightful, funny, and intriguing. He inspired me to write down some of my own stories. Earlier this week I saw the name “Homer” which reminded me of a funny, yet embarrassing moment, from my high school years. I’m not sure it’s really what I want to leave as a legacy for my children and grandchildren, but sooner or later they’re bound to figure out that I made plenty of blunders in my multiple trips around the sun. Plus, it’s good to be able to laugh at yourself. So, here’s the story:
At dinner one night there was a discussion around our table about baseball, specifically about the umpires who seem to favor the home team. My dad said, “An umpire who favors the home team is called a homer.” That’s pretty much all I remember of the exchange because, in all honesty, I probably didn’t find a conversation about baseball all that captivating.
Fast-forward a few days to when I entered my 9th grade English class to discover there was a test. I don’t recall if it was a pop-quiz, or a test we’d been told about, but I do remember one of the questions—a fill-in-the-blank question. I was never fond of fill-in-the-blank questions on tests because, quite frankly, they are way more challenging to bluff your way through . . . but I digress.
One of the questions on the test was “Who was Homer?” Well, clearly this was providential because we’d just had this discussion at the dinner table. Easy peasy! I’ve got this! “Homer,” I wrote on my paper, “is the umpire at a baseball game who favors the home team.” Clearly I was paying more attention at the dinner table than in my English class!
Seriously, this still cracks me up! Can you just imagine the good laugh my English teacher had when she expected to read, “Homer is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey” and found instead my description of an unfair umpire? No doubt she laughed as she banged her head against the wall muttering, “Why do I bother?”
If I recall correctly, my answer was discussed at the semi-annual parent/teacher conference, which I’m sure also included lots of laughter. Somehow I managed to pass that 9th grade English class and move on through high school and even graduate from college. And yet, to this day, I’ve not read the Iliad or the Odyssey.
This may not be the best start on leaving behind my life’s story, but it’s a start. I fear my grandchildren might read it someday and roll their eyes. Hopefully, they’ll laugh, and maybe even feel better about an erroneous test answer of their own.
Frank is right though, our stories are important. Why not write down a few today that you can share with your family. Because, your story matters.