Why didn’t I know?

Posted by Doc
Feb 01 2009

As I’ve mentioned, I have been given custody of the letters that my grandfather wrote to my father during World War II. I’m transcribing them, which is quite an emotional experience for me.

Here’s the big question: given that I knew my father from the time I was born until he died, why didn’t I know about these letters or about his photo album from the war?

It’s not like he didn’t talk about the war.  Trust me – he did.  My siblings and I heard about it from the time we were born until our father died. So it’s not like he was hiding the war or his experience in it. And he did tell us that his father wrote to him “every day” during the war.

What I don’t recall him ever mentioning was that he’d kept the letters his whole life.

He had this substantial folder of letters from his father which he never shared. At least with me.

If you read my previous post on this subject, you’ll know that I find the letters to be extremely intimate. I’m wondering if that’s it.

My father talked quite a bit about his relationship with his father, but mostly about how bad it had gotten, how manipulative his father had been, and how much his father had damaged him.

Now I’m wondering if there was something about these letters that revealed more than my father wanted to reveal.

This is such a common thing, between humans. I try to control what you think of me and feel about me by what I reveal about myself, and the way in which I reveal it. What you think about me and feel about me is important to me, because it helps me to define myself.

Here’s the flaw in that: “…because it helps me to define myself.”

There’s no doubt that the opinions of others are important to me (yes, I’m talking about the real me at this moment). I love getting recognition and appreciation and they help me to understand my place in the world. And yet, there are far too many times that each of us defines ourselves in terms of what other people think and feel.

I like to start from here: Am I happy with myself? Do I like my own behavior and the way I treat others?

Fundamental tenet, for me: You (whoever you are) are as valuable as every other human being on the planet. I don’t care who you are or what you do, you are born with and deserve that value. You may give up your right to participate in a society, based on societal rules and norms. That doesn’t make you of less value – it may make you less accepted.

So if I have that value, and I’m happy with myself, the question comes down to whether I fit in my society or not.

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