Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Everyone Has A Story to Tell

Today in St. Peters, MO: Drizzle, high 49 degrees. A good day to stay inside and write.

Lately I've met some people who have led fascinating lives. During my talk last Saturday, I met writers from outstate Missouri, West Virginia, Washington State, and Arkansas, and briefly talked with man wearing a Pearl Harbor survivor cap--wish I would've gotten to talk with him longer.

Ann, the woman from Arkansas, was a Senior at Little Rock High School during the Little Rock Nine historic event, when President Eisenhower ordered the National Guard to enforce integration at the high school. She shared a bit of her experience with us, but the clock was ticking and she seemed reluctant to say more.

While we were on the subject of high school experiences last Saturday, I mentioned that I went to an all-girls' Catholic school in St. Louis, where we had to invite our dates for prom. My date for senior prom was Mike Blassie, who was headed for the Air Force Academy after graduation. Mike later became a pilot. In May of 1972 his jet was shot down in Vietnam, and Mike was declared missing in action. Flash forward to 1998, when DNA testing determined Mike's remains were those which had been interred in in the Tomb of the Unknown back in 1984. In 1998 Mike's family made the decision to move his remains to Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. My husband Walt, also a Vietnam Veteran, and I attended the ceremony, and I wrote about the experience in my story "Welcome Home" in A Cup of Comfort for Military Families.

A gentleman in our Coffee and Critique group is working on his memoir. When he joined our group I recognized his name immediately. He is a local singer and songwriter of some note (no pun intended). He is a wonderful storyteller who can weave words magically, yet he is soft spoken and not sure of his gift. Yesterday after critique he causually talked about the night he met a local crime boss while he was performing at a night club, although he didn't realize who the man was at the time. Then he talked about the time Elvis Presley pulled a gun on him while he was a Marine stationed in Memphis--that event made the headlines.

A while back, another critique group member told a few of us about the time she was living and working in Dallas in November 1963 and was questioned by the FBI about a co-worker, who later fled the country. While living in Texas she also came into contact with mass murderer Richard Speck--how frightening is that. This woman is a novelist, but has lived a fascinating life and met some famous--and infamous--folks along the way.

The lesson I've learned from all this is to take time to listen. I never know what I might learn because everyone--even the quiet ones, or maybe especially the quiet ones--has a story to tell.

5 comments:

  1. Great reminder and interesting post, Donna!

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  2. You are so right, Doona. When I was promoting my book, "Submarine Stories of World War II" I listen, heard family stories filled with questions and hopefully, I was able to help ease some of the pain they were carrying. Have a great day!

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  3. Hi Pat and Mary Nida,
    Thanks for your comments.
    On the topic of listening, one of my mom's many words of advice was, "God gave you one mouth and two ears, so you should listen twice as much as you talk."

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  4. I am often so hyper-focused on the task at hand that I forget to observe (and listen!) to other people and to what's going on around me. Thanks for the gentle reminder to be a better listener, Donna! Great post.

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