Saturday, October 26, 2013

History, big or small, matters to us all

Years ago when I was old enough to know that my family history was unique, I became a rebel.  

Those that I grew up around hoped that the story of my parents' life and death would fade into obscurity because it wasn't a "nice" story, in fact the very nature of it brought shame to the family name and brought up memories too sad to be recalled. 

First I asked questions out of pure curiosity: why was I raised by my grandmother?  Why were there no photographs of my parents?  Why, when I asked questions was I met with, "Never mind.  It's in the past.  Let it go." 

A persistent child and adult, I began to dig.  Those efforts, of finding out the truth from uncovered documents, as well as interviews with people who knew my mom and dad, has turned me into the historian I am today.

To me, facts, dates, and stories matter. 


Today is the anniversary of my father's death.  Nine days ago it was my mother's; both died in the same year, nine days apart. 

So many years have passed since that fated month.  That's what I tell myself when I notice the dates: October 17 and October 26.  I ask myself what does it matter?  It is just another day.  My life is full and happy, I have so much to be thankful for that I should not dwell on the past.  That is so much easier said then done.

I am a historian and dates matter. 

Teaching students about history on a global level is all about making sure they know when historic events happened, where they took place and who was involved.  It the story of human history.  The story of my family is a much more personal, intimate one that concerns very few.  But the impact of the events that took my parents from me, leaving my three brothers and I adrift in life with questions that can never be answered are as important to us as any major world history event.  It happened in our world and we have been forever changed.

History matters; whether it affects a few or an entire population, remembering it is a debt we owe to those who made it and left behind a legacy, no matter how big or small. 

No, that don't have to hold me back, but it is okay to remember.

Today, many years ago, my father died.  His story and that of my mother has not been forgotten.  That's my job as a daughter - and as a historian.

Joseph and Patricia Gioia with
sons Michael, infant Jimmy, and Joseph, Jr.
1954