Yesterday I was able to sit down and listen to a doctor tell a story. I don’t know much about his career in medicine, but from the short bits that I heard, I assume it has been accomplished. However, it was not medicine that he talked about.
For about an hour over lunch, he talked about what it was like to be a child growing up in Italy. With pictures and words, he began his tale as a small boy in short pants standing beside his handsome father in military attire. The Italy that he introduced us to was far from the pasta and wine nirvana that we think of today. There was famine and political unrest. There were leaders making bad decisions. He recounted the conflict that arose in his own family when political decisions diverged. The little boy in short pants could not grow up oblivious to that.
The story literally got played out in his own backyard. One anecdote that he shared was playing outside one afternoon and hearing a commotion over the fence. Two small children were thrown over the fence with a plea to hide them. The neighbor children were Jews – in danger of being rounded up as so many others had – taken to the nearby train station and packed into cattle cars for delivery to concentration camps. The boy’s family hid the children and got them safely to a neighborhood church, but the sounds and sights of that day and countless others embedded in his memory to be shared many times over during his lifetime.
The doctor ended his talk emotionally. He spoke of the importance of telling his story and how he has made certain his child and grandchild will keep remembering it for future generations. He had with him a picture book, drawn by his granddaughter, that told her grandpa’s story. On one page was a crayon drawing of two children flying over a garden wall.
What a gift I got yesterday to be able to be the recipient of a memory.