We all have family stories. Some might be sad or bad, but we also have many stories of our family history that make us who we are. My father was a story teller. My uncles were also story tellers and my brothers told stories I'll remember all my days.
Those of us who like to write have a responsibility, I think, to keep those stories alive. The days of several generations sitting on the porch or around a dinner table listening to family stories are fading away. Families are scattered all over the world. Grandparents get to see their grandchildren on Skype for a few minutes, but that is a far cry from conversing face to face with plenty of time to share.
That is why I am passionate about writing those stories, leaving a written legacy for the future. Even though I have no children, I have always been the family historian and have documented many of the stories of my father's family in a hard bound book: Profiles and Pedigrees, Thomas C. Council and His Descendants.
I have also written a collection of short stories based on stories about my immediate family -- father, mother and my sisters and brothers. One day I hope to publish them for my family.
For over a week I have been listening to a memoir by Pat Conroy, the southern author of The Great Santini and Prince of Tides among other excellent books. He writes a detailed story of the life he has led with his abusive father, mother he adored, his siblings who all suffered from growing up in the dysfunctional family. One of his brothers killed himself. A sister seemed to suffer from mental illness. Pat, himself, had several breakdowns and several marriages. All of this made for interesting reading, but those are not the stories most of us want to tell about our families.
One of my students told me he decided he should write about his life when his little grandson said, "Grandpa, I know about your life. You had to fight Indians and live in a log cabin."
It is hard to entice young people to care about anyone or anything but themselves once they are in their teens. But those kids will grow up and one day they will be so happy to read about their family history.
In March, 2015, I will teach a class on writing life stories at Tri-County Community College. If you are local, check with the Community Enrichment department, Lisa Thompson, to register.