“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” ~ Mary Oliver
For a long time I’ve been trying to find a way to interview dad about his life. He met my friend and writing and art life mentor, Gurney Norman, back in December at the funeral of a mutual friend’s father. They hit it off big time. I’ve never known dad to make such an effort to be friends with someone. He thought the world of Gurney the second they met. The feeling was mutual it turned out.
A few weeks ago I awoke from a deep sleep with the answer. (yes, my mind works that way sometimes) I knew Gurney should talk to dad. They share so, so, so much in common. They’re both mountain men. They’re a year apart in age. They both went through jump school in the army. Gurney not only knows where Hardburly is,the coal camp where dad was born, but he has actually been there. The list goes on. So, I asked Gurney if he would interview dad. It was an enthusiastic yes. I was beyond honored. Dad was honored, too. He didn’t care as much about the oral history part as he cared about talking to Gurney again.
Gurney is a smart man. He’s genuinely interested in what people have to say. He’s equally interesting to listen to, for he has lived many lives in this one life. So, that’s how they did their interview; like a conversation. When dad actually stopped talking for a second (I’ve never heard him so eager to talk – ever!), Gurney shared his own wisdom, insight, and theories. He knew how to draw dad out; how to make him more comfortable so that he would tell his stories. As I suspected, Gurney is a natural at oral histories, probably because he was a reporter for many years, but also because, like I said, he is genuinely interested in people. You have to be interested in order to know how to listen and to ask the right questions.
This was the first of what I hope will be many talks between these two new/old friends, whether it be for our cameras, or just over coffee. I don’t think they care either as long as they can keep talking. There was more admiration and respect in that room than words can define. Most of it was coming from me. I just felt incredibly blessed to be loved by two such great men.