Aging Parents-Untold Stories: Grandma, Why Didn’t You Tell Me?

Library of Congress photo

Sometimes an aging parent unexpectedly shares a story from years ago — in this case nearly 75 years.

Long before Mother’s stroke my husband went to Cincinnati on business, staying downtown at the Netherland Hotel, a National Historic Landmark recently restored to its 1930’s grandeur. A few months later we traveled to South Carolina to see his mother, an Ohio native. Our young adult daughter came along on the trip.

After hearing about my husband’s trip, his mother began reminiscing about her childhood visits to the Netherland. She began by explaining in detail how in those days people often spent time socializing in the hotel lobbies and how on one trip Amelia Earhart was also there, in her leather aviatrix jacket and long billowing scarf.

Purdue University Library

She told us how the pioneering female flyer had moved around the lobby gracefully, chatting with people and smiling at everyone — even at her — and how Amelia went off to the elevator laughing with a group of friends, the scarf trailing behind her. Every detail was crystal clear.

We sat spellbound and dumbfounded, but no one more so than our daughter, a veteran of countless school assignments which required her to ask a grandparent about life “back when they were children.”

“Grandmother, why didn’t you ever tell me?” she asked Mother. Her grandmother gazed back, puzzled, and replied that it never seemed that important.

Sometimes aging parents are so casual about amazing events that occurred in their lives. How fortunate we were to have heard this story.

Here is a poem Amelia Earhart wrote on Netherland Hotel stationery.

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