Last week I visited my 90+ year old uncle in the nursing rehab facility he's been in for a couple of months now. While there, he told me some great stories about my mom, dad, aunts and uncles. My favorite was he told me a story about before my dad was dating my mom. In WWII, my dad was a navy medic and was stationed in Okinawa. As a result of his job, his tent had a wooden floor to keep the living area from getting muddy.
My uncles Jimmy and Ernest - who were twin brothers - were both stationed in Okinawa as well. Ernest relieved my dad's unit and moved into my dad's tent. Jimmy was with the SeaBees. Jimmy went to visit Ernest with some buddies and had Ernest show him around the camp. He had his buddies steal my uncle Ernest's booze that was hidden under the floor boards. When my dad and mom started dating after the war, Ernest told about how someone stole all his booze and he knew it wasn't my dad because he had already moved to the next assignment. In the background, my uncle Jimmy was signaling my dad not to say anything.
I told the story to someone who said, "It's a shame we're losing these stories as these guys die off."
I thought about it. Is it my responsibility as a writer to be capturing these things? I have thought about it a few times, tracking down WWII vets and recording their stories before they're lost. The issue is, as always, time and money. The question then becomes, do I have a greater responsibility? Do we all?
On my end, I'm going to go back with a voice recorder and start capturing some of the stories. I don't know how much longer my uncle has, but anything I catch is better than losing it all.