Saturday, February 26, 2011

Searching For Fathers, Feb 26, 2011

It doesn't matter who my father was;
it matters who I remember he was.
~Anne Sexton

Hello Family and Friends,

Happy Birthday to Darrell! Tomorrow is the birthday of my brother Darrell Shepard, who, with his wife Mary, lives in Washington State. Darrell was born and raised in San Diego, but he and Mary and their family have lived in the Northwest for nearly 30 years now.

Charger fan Darrell Shepard, Dec 2010
Darrell: "Mary and I are settling into our new lives here in Normandy Park, Washington, just west of SeaTac airport. We are the on-site managers of Fernwood at the Park, an independent retirement community. Our residents are active and vital and living life to the fullest. The average age is about 84 with several in their 90s. We live here with them, very much a part of their lives.

"These are amazing people. Tom Brokaw nailed it when he christened them 'The Greatest Generation.' They are that, and then some. (His book 'The Greatest Generation' is a must read for all baby boomers and their off spring.) I know it sounds corny but I am in awe of them. I love their values, their history, and their casual attitude towards their accomplishments. Even the briefest study of history reveals their accomplishments are astonishing. They literally saved the world!

"One gentleman is a survivor of the Battle of the Bulge. To this day, he can't bring himself to talk about it. Another lady was at Pearl Harbor Dec 7, 1941. They all have dramatic stories of survival and honor and duty. And lives lived with quiet unassuming dignity. 'We just did what had to be done...' What an understatement. In 10 or 15 years, they will all be gone. I am happy to be a part of their lives before they are all consigned to the history books."

Darrell and our father Gene Shepard, 1990s
Best wishes to Darrell for a happy birthday.

Father Search in Feature Films. With the academy awards coming up tomorrow, I am thinking about 3 recent films in which people search for their fathers. (These are not necessarily recommended for children.)

True Grit is a highly touted remake of a 1969 western and is up for an academy award for best picture. Set in the 1870s, it is about a girl named Mattie Ross whose father is killed and who is driven to do something about it. She engages the services of a crotchety lawman who helps her on a courageous journey to make things right. 

Leroy & Nola (Shannon) Gower,
1920s, probably in Arkansas
Winter's Bone, a darker film, concerns a girl named Ree Dolly who is desperate to uncover the truth about her father. Set in modern times, it centers on the values and lifestyles of families in the Ozarks, which struck a responsive chord with me. My Gower and Shannon roots are deep in the Arkansas Ozarks of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Though my grandparents Leroy and Nola Gower left Arkansas in 1925 as young parents and lived most of their lives in California, they carried with them much of the unique culture of people in the Ozarks.

The Eagle is very different from the first two films, yet is also about searching for the truth of one's father. In this film (which Cindy and I would not have seen but for the rave review of Jerry Clark) a second century Roman soldier named Marcus Aquila travels on a dangerous but life changing trek to solve the mystery of his father's disappearance. It is based on the true story of the Ninth Roman Legion who, in the year 120, marched into the mountains of Scotland, never to be seen again.

Each of these films piqued my interest in genealogy, because they concern individuals who, in searching for the important truth about their own fathers, learn something even more important about themselves. Family research is not just about discovering the truth about other people. More importantly it's about finding out who we are, who we choose to be, and what we will do with the family history that resides within us.
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