My Grandfather’s Old Journal

Moments in everyday life

While doing some spring cleaning, I came across an old, little brown notebook hidden in a desk I’d inherited from my grandparents.When I opened this notebook, I recognized the handwriting of my grandfather, Dad Arthur.

I started looking through the pages and discovered it was his journal, but not like the journals I kept. No, this one was different.

The entries begin in 1940 after Dad Arthur retired. At that time he turned his focus to caring for his orange grove and the properties around his house in Orlando, Florida, the same place his son (my father) and grandchildren grew up.

Each page lists his daily activities, such as how many trees he planted, whether or not his hens were laying eggs, what he bought and when he went hunting or fishing.

In addition, hidden amongst his daily activities, he also noted the births, deaths and other noteworthy happenings to the people in his life.

I’ve made note of a few I found interesting because of the historical events he recorded. I was fascinated that such major events were tucked in between his everyday activities.

So, from 1941, he wrote:

July 6 – Thomas (my dad) left for Navy
October 27 – Oranges picked
November 2 – Bought cricket mole bait
December 7 – WAR DECLARED!!
December 10 – porch made larger

December 12 – finished picking early oranges

And then from 1945, he wrote:

May 3 – bought 25 White Rock chickens
May 4 – pump fixed
May 8 – GERMANY SURRENDER announced by President Truman!!!
May 12 – watch to Howard for repair
July 23 – 7 trees planted
August 13 – guineas fowls put out in pen at 3 weeks old
August 14 – WAR OVER!!! Tuesday 7 p.m. three months and six days after Germany surrendered
August 28 – Went fishing with Estes

As you can see from these entries, four major events – my dad’s enlistment in the Navy, the declaration of WWII, the surrender of Germany and the end of WWII – were mixed in with his commentaries on everyday activities.

How the mundane centers us

When I read this journal I am reminded that historical or life-changing events happen as part and parcel of our lives. They may sadden or delight us, but we still perform our everyday activities.

I believe the mundane tasks of living – going to work, eating, bathing, having meals – allow us to find balance in our lives, especially during crises. They center us and keep us moving forward.

To me, there’s a beauty in this. It shows our instinctive need for survival and our determination to rise above our crises by just living our lives the best we can.

Dad Arthur’s last entry in his journal was, “Oxygen tank – Mon. January 9, 1950”. He died soon after this, only a few years before I was born.

He left me this legacy of a small brown notebook, which holds in its yellowed paper the major events in his life and the simple, everyday things he did as he went about living his life. Both tell me important things about the man he was.

From reading his journal, I know I would have liked Dad Arthur very much. He experienced terrifying events with a trust in the future.

I know he must have been scared when he wrote about war being declared. He knew his only son, my dad, would fight this war and might not return, yet he still continued his life by expanding the porch and finishing the picking of the early oranges:~)

What about you?

What mundane tasks keep you going when life’s not being so easy?

What historical event stands out for you and what everyday activities did you continue to do?

What mementos have you been left that told you something special about a relative?

How do you show your trust in the future?