There may be many dads out there who appreciate the value of story; that is, they can tell wonderful tales about their dads because they spent time asking questions and listening to the ol’ man on golf outings or fishing trips. What a remarkable gift it is to hold and preserve those personal stories and to pass them on to our sons and daughters.
A Stranger Named Dad
Tom and his brother have spent several years trying to uncover those stories about their father. In their search, they have been reminded again and again of an unsettling reality—they really never knew their dad. The elder Tozer was a private, stolid clergyman who delved into the lives of his parishioners but remained guarded about his own history. Tom has often said he wished he would have taken more interest in coaxing boyhood stories out of his dad—stories of shenanigans, of black sheep hidden in the branches of the family tree, of loves lost and found, all that juicy stuff!
Another reality, however, is that when we are adolescents or even teenagers, sitting down and interviewing our parents may be the last thing on our to-do list, if it even makes the list. Family histories, those rich stories of our past, become more important as we grow older and have a greater appreciation of place, tradition and connection.
If Only …
So Tom and his brother pore over historical records in the county archives, look for old-timers in the area who may have foggy-at-best recollections of the family name and search for distant relatives here and abroad who may offer clues that might connect some of the dots. How many times the brothers have said … If only dad were still alive, we would mine his 98 years of history.
Stories Connect Us
One of the greatest joys of writing this column is the camaraderie and sharing of family history that we enjoy. From our many conversations over cashew chicken and gyro salads, we have shared the Tozer and Black stories of being young and expectant fathers, rearing children, establishing careers and coping with growing older. It may well be that Tom knows Bill better than he knew his own dad. The sharing of stories—of roots and recollections—face-to-face, up close and personal—truly brings people together.
Pass It On, Dad
So, dads, share your stories with your children. If you find it difficult to get an audience with your kids, then write down your stories and put them in a cool, dry place. Who you are and who you were will one day become gold nuggets that your son or daughter will discover and treasure. Your stories need not be dramatic or exotic, just genuine and real. Your children are who they are in large part because of who you are—and were. Your history is a precious gift for your children. Don’t take it with you.