An Epiphany at Sea

I’m teaching writing on a Caribbean cruise off the coast of Mexico. (Tough gig, I know.) Yesterday I had an epiphany right in the middle of teaching a session on memoir writing. I told the participants that gathering information for their memoirs would show them things about themselves they didn’t know. “Memoirs teach you who you are.” And I told an anecdote about my late father, a shy man of few words.

He never talked about what he did as a naval officer in World War II, but I’d gathered bits and pieces over the years and put together my own picture of what he did. I knew he helped develop the airborne radar used in hunter-killer teams. One plane (the Hunter) used radar to find enemy submarines, and the other plane (the Killer) carried depth charges to drop on the sub. When he was dying, I cornered him in his hospital bed and interviewed him about what he really did. He couldn’t escape me, and for once in his life, talked at length. I assumed, since he was an electrical engineer, that he had helped develop the radar itself. Actually he figured out how to train flying officers to operate the radar and find the sub. Later he led a group of radar specialists, and flew missions himself. I confirmed all this later in his service records.

And just as I finished telling this anecdote, I had an epiphany. I had never seen the connection between what he was and did (an engineer) and what I became and did (a teacher-scholar). But as I told the story to my participants, it hit me. He created new knowledge, recast it so others could learn it, and taught it to smart people so they could act on it. Which is exactly what I’ve done my whole life, and what I’m am doing right now on this cruise, and what I’m doing in this blog post.
[Ever had an epiphany while telling a story?]

Published in: on May 1, 2011 at 10:44 am  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Don
    I loved your note. It is interesting when we make connections like that.

  2. Very interesting article How to check computer your dad was quite an intersting man. Thanks for sharing

  3. Thanks, Robert.
    He was an interesting man who kept his interesting aspects to himself. Sometimes it takes half a lifetime to find out things like that.

  4. I found a couple of notebooks in my grandma’s cabinet several years ago. She had journaled for decades about who she had over for dinner, what day they came and what she fed them. There were records back to 1976. She had notes about trips the family had taken and events in her family’s lives, like the time a granddaughter put a hairpin in an light socket. Then I came across a little yellow notebook with details about my grandpa’s last weeks before he died. She had written down various medical stuff—temperatures and pills. But she also wrote down their last conversations. I realized then that she and I were a lot alike. She’s a historian of sorts, and today I’m a journalist. She once told me, “I tried to write everyday so I wouldn’t forget.” My editors make me write everyday, so I don’t forget either.

  5. Thanks, Matthew.
    WIthout journalists, this nation will forget who we are and why. If we don’t save journalism, we’ll lose our minds.

  6. […] my previous post, I talked about epiphanies, sudden realization of something you knew but didn’t know. You can […]

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