April 6 ~  Great Thing About Growing Older Like It Was: A Complete Guide to Writing Oral History

"The great thing about getting older is that you dont lose all the other ages you’ve been." ~ Madeleine L'Engle

Uncle Joe

My Great Uncle Joseph DeMattos Sr. (1925-2012) was born on this day. Uncle was married to my Grandma Dorothy's sister, Nina. A wiry man, he maintained that same dear stature that I held in my heart's memory as a child.

In recent years, he looked the same, too, more grey, more wrinkles, but still that beloved face and voice and manners that brought back memories of yesterday. He always had a kind word of support and aloha.

As writer Aldous Huxley observed, "The memory of every man is his own private literature."

Uncle was 16 when Japan attacked Hawaii. He watched the planes bomb Pearl Harbor from a perch atop a papaya tree at his family's home in Kaimuki.

He also worked at Pearl Harbor for more than 50 years, 30 of those were spent as editor of Patrol, the Pacific Submarine Force newspaper. I envision him with his camera and pad and pencil, going from ship to Shipyard Commander for his stories.

Always the newsman, he wrote a book on his Depression-era childhood in Kaka'ako-- a delightful series of vignettes about growing up in Hawaii at a very special time.

"Stories," said writer Clarissa Pinkola Estes, "are medicine. They have such power; they do not require that we do, be, act anything —we need only listen."

Much oral history evaporates with time. Thanks to my uncle's creativity and tenacity and through the magic of the Internet, he uploaded his stories into his own blog: Joe DeMattos.

With that, his priceless story became a gift to the world.

His son Michael, an instructor at the University of Hawaii, celebrated his story in a March 2006 Honolulu Advertiser column, "(My Dad) gave me his Web address and as I perused his page, tears ran down my face. I was happy that he found a venue to share his story, but more importantly, I was proud of the fact that at 81 he was still current."

In 2010, writer Marsha Gibson showcased my Uncle Joe's stories in her book, Kakaako As We Knew It. That was a joyous day when Uncle told me about it.

Whatever age you are--Celebrate your story.