Good stories have clear characterization, character being defines as desire, drive, ability, compassion and perspective all of which change over a lifetime. Here’s a simple example of those changes from my own family history. I’ve been thinking about this lately as I ponder my upcoming knee replacement.
Philo Howard, my mother’s brother, was a frank, funny, energetic man. At sixteen, he ran away to Canada from his home in Houston. There, he lied about his age and joined the Canadian Royal Air Force to fight in WWII, which the US had not yet entered. His whereabouts were determined by my dad’s mother who read an article in the Houston paper listing Texas volunteers. Uncle Philo was returned to the bosom of his family forthwith. Several years later he enlisted in the American Air Corps and flew P-51s over Europe.
My family had a party in Houston in 2003 to celebrate what would have been my late father’s 100th birthday. My uncle, who recently had his pacemaker replaced, couldn’t make the party. He emailed me this tribute to be read at the celebration. My dad, Judge Wilmer Hunt, was nearly twenty-years his senior. To his great sorrow he was denied military service due to his age, very flat feet and a knee injured by my mother. (That’s another story.) The setting of Philo’s account is the rich farmland of eastern Texas in the 50’s. By prison, my uncle was referring to a pea farm, as they were called back then. They were minimum security prisons where inmates grew food for the prison system.
Wilmer was my favorite, because he liked to fish and many times took me along. One time he took me to Kemah and we got in a small skiff and towed [it] out to the middle of the bay for four hours. I was always a little hyper, and I almost jumped out of the boat after about an hour. Wilmer seeing this, started telling me stories. As I remember, this calmed me down a bit and I caught some fish.
Being a Judge he had access to a prison and one near Brazoria had a great fishing pond. He and I went there about three times. It seemed I always ended up having to carry a small Outboard motor from the parking lot to the lake each time. I asked him why, and he said “when you are my age you will understand.”