The word “history” has its origins in the Greek language, from words which stood for “learned”, “wise man” and “finding out”. One could almost say it is a wise man who finds out and learns about his story.
I believe it is important for all of us to find out more about our family history for many reasons. At a basic level, it is important to know the medical history of our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, in order to take the necessary precautions to enable a healthy life. I’ve always been conscious of my mother’s late onset diabetes, in fact it is my motivation for maintaining a healthy weight. Similarly, my father’s battles with cataracts and glaucoma, ensure I regularly have my eyes checked.
The history of our relatives also goes a long way to explaining their behaviour, or the decisions they might have made. In my own case, I have always favored naturopathic and homeopathic medicine over the western norm, without ever having a concrete reason. My father, despite regularly seeing a doctor, often refused medication and believed more in “mind over matter.” Could our viewpoint have stemmed from my grandfather, my father’s father, who was an iridologist and homeopath, who insisted on treating his family instead of taking them to western doctors?
And while I’m on the subject of my father, to me he was blatantly different to other fathers. He worked and he came home, he never stayed behind for a beer or socialised. He didn’t like to go out and only did so when my mother forced him to join her at parties or functions. He was obsessed with security, there were locks on every door and window in our house and I was never allowed to keep my window open at night. I did, but I learned to shut it as soon as I woke up. My father also stocked up on everything. He had multiple tissue boxes and rolls of toilet paper. The cupboards were full of soap, light bulbs, pads of paper, empty cassettes, toothpaste, deodorant and more. It has only been lately, as I’ve learned more about his past that I’ve managed to make sense of his odd behaviour. He was an officer in the Germany army, not a Nazi, but someone who was drafted against his will. He fought in some bloody battles, was injured in a few and was eventually captured and made a prisoner of war. No wonder he had rather strange behaviour.
The more I look into my family’s history, the more I connect things to my life today. So, in the memoir I’m working on, I hope to outline further information about my father and his family, in order that my boys will be able to read it and understand where they came from. When I finish it, I will begin on my mother’s side of the family.
No matter where we come from, no matter what family we have, we all have a history which makes us what we are today and I believe it is important to learn about it.