In our interviews with the Legacy Project elders, we received lots of very useful advice about raising children. One of the most frequently endorsed suggestions they have for young parents is this: Be sure to communicate your values to your children. And your example is often what counts most.
I was deeply moved by this letter we received from Jeanne, age 86. Jeanne responded on behalf of her husband, and her response illustrates the elders’ emphasis on living by core values.
Your request for life lessons was received yesterday by my husband, who at 86 years of age suffers from dreaded Alzheimer’s disease. I, his wife, decided to answer for him. I will tell you what I would tell my grandchildren.
Upon graduation from university, he immediately joined the Navy. As a lover of the sea and a sailor he wanted to fly – fly he did as a carrier based bomber pilot hunting German subs in the Atlantic – thus keeping the shipping lanes to Europe open for much needed equipment.
One untold story follows: a blip on sub was received in the North Atlantic. As the seas were calculated to be too high for a safe bomber launch – no order was given, but a request for volunteers. One volunteered – my husband. He said as the only non-married bomber pilot he’d try to find it. His crew also volunteered, which was not necessary – “if he’s going – so are we.”
This thoughtfulness of others was always a character trait which others admired and even is exhibited through this period of Alzheimer’s. His love for me and his children is still there, at times, observed through his smiles, and “Can I help you with anything.” He has forgotten how to open a new toothbrush package, but still wants to help me with any project I’m involved with daily.
“Without honesty there cannot be a relationship”; this phrase he repeated to our three children, and they comment on how this has governed their lives.
After over 61 years of marriage, many trips, many meals, many memories, he still tries to say a blessing at supper – it’s sometimes short but he tries.
As a salesman career, after U.S. service, he was admired by all his customers and many became close friends – this due to his honest method of sales; as I was told many times by his customers.
His commitment to his country and his patriotism is with us every day – he’s living on a ship, and thinks that on Sundays he should wear his blues. One recent day he dressed in his best and after a pleasant country ride, we arrived back home all happy.
So I tell my grandchildren: Try to imitate grpa’s way of life; by being loyal to your country, serve in need, love and be faithful to family and God, give a helping hand where needed, and be honest at all times to everyone – including yourself.