Lucille and Donald Aubrey
For years, I asked my parents to write or record their memoirs of life in the U.S. Army. Dad retired from the Army as a Lt. Col., and he and Mom lived around the world during his Army career. After retiring from the Army, Dad and Mom continued to travel, one time making a trip around the world, in addition to numerous trips abroad across the globe.
As a child, I used to love listening to my parents tell stories of their lives abroad, and as I got older, I asked them to record their memories, either on tape or on computer. But for whatever reason, they never did. Fortunately, Dad did go to the Reagan Library several times to record part of his story for a history archive project for the Military Order of World Wars (MOWW), so I have that for my archives. But Dad passed away in July 2015, before I had a chance to sit and interview him about his life. That would have been a challenge, and I’m certain he would have made me work for the stories, but that was just Dad’s way. He was humble, not a man to brag or toot his own horn, so I think he would have thought my interest was slightly ridiculous. Still, had I been persistent enough, I know he would finally have given in to me. Not for his sake or for mine, but as part of the family legacy.
So, I am delighted that I will be going home to live with my mom next month. In the past few years, I have talked with her daily when on the same continent, and several times weekly when ten hours ahead on a different continent, and I have managed to record some of our talks, especially when I have managed to get her to talk about herself and her life. Mom, like Dad, is quite self-effacing and can’t seem to imagine that anyone would want to hear her story. But she and Dad had five kids and numerous grandchildren and now great-grandchildren who will want to know their history, the stories of their fore-bearers. That’s you, Mom and Dad.
I have a list of questions to ask Mom about her life, as a child, as a teen during World War II, and as an Army wife. I have already written one blog about my mom, in “Lucille, the Intrepid: Or, The Life of an Army Wife.” But now, I will begin in earnest to record more stories, to fill in the blanks of what I know already and what is missing.
I know she still has stories that I’ve never heard. She dropped a gem the other day, about how as a 26-year-old First Lieutenant’s wife living in France, she was tasked with organizing an outing for the officer’s wives (mostly older, certainly of higher rank) from Orleans, France, to Paris. She and a friend went to Paris to scout out appropriate places, and ultimately Mom took the ladies to a fashion show in the ritzy Yves St. Laurent! Yep, that was a new one for me! So nonchalant in her delivery!
Mom just turned 95, and is still sharp as a nail, but time is passing. Now is the moment to record as much of her story and Dad’s story as I can, for myself, for my brothers, for my kids, and for all those who love Mom and Dad.
After all, that is one of the greatest legacies we can leave behind: our story.
If anyone who is reading this has been tempted to write their memoirs, I encourage you to do so. Start now. Get something on paper. Write vignettes, little stories of your life. One day, you’ll look up and realize that you can now string together all of those vignettes into the story of your life.
I’m here if you need help: firstname.lastname@example.org.