My grandmother, Hilda, saved many of the Valentine's my father received during the late 1930s to early 1940s. He says he doesn't know why she did it but appreciates the sentiment. To help keep his 85 year old mind sharp (and help me gauge his mental acuity), I've been quizzing him from time to time about the names on the back. The clarity he has for those years is always so remarkable. Each question he answers leads him along a trail of memories that starts with the individual in question and winds among his neural networks to recall everything from people to places and sensory memories. At first, I just listened and jotted down a few notes, but I've learned the best thing to do is zap on a recorder app on my iPhone to ensure I capture the details. There is no predicting how long his recall will go on once I ask the simplest of questions like, "Dad, Who was Alfred J. Lindsay?"
"Alfred? Alfred lived across the street from me in Salt Lake City. He had a sister Mae and another sister & brother I can't recall the names of. Their mother had a brother that grew 'the greatest vegetables' my mother bought. In those days we called him a moron* which wouldn't be appropriate today but back then it was what you called someone with a mental disability. Alfred married and moved away. I don't think Mae ever married but she was active in the church for a long time.
The Lindsay family lived next door to the Graham Family. Athol Graham** built several race cars that he ran on Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats. Athol put Allison airplane engines at the back of the car at a 90degree angle and ran the wheels off the crankshaft. He gave me my first airplane ride. He also built his own car around an old Cadillac coupe and used a plexiglass cover for it. Us kids sure loved riding around the block in that souped up car. Boy did that car rumble."
* Moron was the medical term coined in 1910 by psychologist Henry Goddard to denote mild intellectual disability. Once the term became popularized, it fell out of use and became more commonly used as an insult.
** Athol Graham passed at age 36 in 1960. He was going 300mph in his car the "City of Salt Lake," attempting to break the world's land speed record of 394.196mph on the Bonnevile Salt Flats.
What We Left Behind