This past year I have found myself frequently thinking about my father. He is someone I never met and was told very little about him. My father, J.C. LaMar, was killed in an accident before I was born. He was a California Highway Patrol officer and on duty when the accident occurred. My mother was two months pregnant with me and had my two older brothers to care for. She was obviously devastated and afraid of what lay ahead.
When I was five (my brothers 7 and 9), she remarried. I understand now the courage it took for my new father to take on a task of raising three small children. Though he was a good provider, he did not encourage any contact with my father’s side of the family and we never felt comfortable asking our mother about our father.
That brings me to today. Helping families plan services for their loved ones and hearing them describe their friend or family member, I came to realize how little I knew of my own father. Since my mother passed away last year I wasn’t sure where to turn. Starting with my oldest brother seemed the best place to start.
He gave me the phone number of my aunt, who lives in northern California. She is the only one of my father’s siblings still living. I gave her a call and described my desire to create a memory of my father where very little exists. Other than pictures and a few stories, I have no memories to pass on to my children and grandchildren. Was he like me? What did he want most out of his life? What life lessons might he have taught me?
My aunt was so sweet and excited that I would reach out to her. She contacted other family members to pull together pictures and they early recollections.
Two months later, I received a mini photo album with commentary. She told me what their early days were like in Oklahoma with her older brother (my father) and their five other siblings. Their journey to California (dust bowl days). Settling in Tulare and growing up. My father’s serving in the Navy during WWII and returning home after the war to become a police officer in Tulare. Later moving to Bakersfield when he became a Highway Patrolman.
I have even been contacted by a cousin I never knew. He has a shotgun which belonged to my father and would like to return it to me.
Needless to say, I now have memories where once there were only questions. I wish I would have started this journey sooner but am thankful I didn’t wait any longer.
My life lesson to share: don’t wait until it is too late to connect with family and allowing them to share their memories, your heritage, with you. Embrace the past. Pass it along to your children and grandchildren before it is too late. Those memories are precious and fleeting.
Embrace family, life and friends. It is what is truly important.
P.S. There are some stories a little rough to share. They are my private memories and I am smiling as I think of them.