Both he and my mother were largely self-educated, but they both appreciated the value of words and proper grammar. They didn't have the advantage of being college educated, for they came of age during WWII and Uncle Sam had other ideas about how they should be spending their time. While my father served in the Army Air Corps, my mother joined forces with her sister-in-law to simply survive during times of great penury, each with a baby born while her husband fought overseas (my father in the European Theatre and my uncle in the navy in the Pacific).
My father flew thirty-three missions over Europe in a B-24 bomber, including sorties on D-Day and during the Battle of the Bulge. During those dark days, he and my mother wrote letters to each other every day. Oh, how I wish I could rub my fingers over the agonizing words they both must have used to portray events that I cannot even begin to imagine, or over the words of longing they must have shared when confronted by the very real possibility that they might never see each other again in this life. However, that period was so painful and excruciating for them both that they burned the letters after my father safely returned. I think often of the book those missives could have written, of the legacy those words could have been for their five children, twenty-four grandchildren, and an endless posterity that continues to grow.
My parents instilled in each of their children a passion for reading and a love of proper grammar. They lovingly but firmly corrected us if we ever had the misfortune of making a grammatical error. Without being pushy, without any undue pressure, they quietly inspired us to apply ourselves in school. They expected us to excel, and so we tried not to disappoint them. They encouraged us to think for ourselves and to use our imaginations.
I thought that is what all parents did, but I have since come to understand that I was blessed to grow up in a home where good literature, proper English, and imaginative thinking was valued.
I once told my daughter that I have never been bored, and I haven't! I grew up knowing how to entertain myself long before video games and non-stop television reality shows. Since the time I was a little girl, I have loved to write, tell stories, and concoct silly poetry like my father. I have loved to play with words, measure words, weigh words and dissect words.
To me, words are like music. They have different pitches, different tempos, different values and different rhythms. Words are like colors used to paint pictures in every hue and shade possible: somber paintings or bright, blissful canvases. The writer is the artist, and his palette is filled, not with dabs of paints, but with an endless supply of words. What a stimulating artistic brush!
My 94-year-old mother has maintained her passion for words. Her home is filled with so many books, you could spend a lifetime perusing them. She does a crossword puzzle every day, and our way of passing the time while on road trips together is working on crossword puzzles. Except for certain questions regarding current pop culture, she can 'out-word' me every time! She lives alone, and so I speak to her at least twice a day so that she can get in her day's quota of words. Each morning, she shares words from an inspirational thought to lift and inspire me. She is still using words to bless the lives of others.
And so now, I use words to honor my parents. I use my word-brush to paint stories to compensate for the stories they lost when they burned their own words. I use words to write silly poems to brighten the days of family and friends, like my father did. If someone needs a silly poem for any event, I am the go-to person! I have even put to paper tales of Rocky Mountain critters for my own children and grandchildren. It is not only my legacy for my grandchildren, but my father's legacy. I am thrilled to see one of my granddaughters who now continues this legacy. She, too, has a passion for words. And so I write not only to honor my past, but I write to honor my future, to leave a legacy for my own posterity.
With words, the world is an empty page with endless possibilities. Words constitute the most precious commodity we have. And they are free! I will use and cherish them as long as I am able. Words are my passion.