Lessons Learned 3 – Asking Questions

We were young and so that must be our excuse. 

How many of us can truly say that we know our parents well? That we know enough details about our grandparents to recount to someone else what their lives were like?

I’m not talking about our parents as our parents, but our parents as teenagers. Our grandmother as a young woman in love. Our grandfather struggling to find a career that would pay the bill for his young family.

What were their lives like before you?

I never knew 3 of my grandparents. They passed before I was born. My remaining grandmother, Violet Belina Hogan, lived in Minnesota – a 2 day drive away. I saw her very rarely. She passed when I was a freshman in college and my memories of her weren’t mature enough to understand what I thought was her bristly personality and odd behavioral quirks. I never really knew her.

I never knew that I missed having grandparents until I met my husband’s. They’ve become my own. They have given me their love and I have soaked it up wholly.

Why should you care?

Like many, our childhoods (or even adulthoods) don’t make asking about our parents and grandparents easy. For some it may be downright traumatizing. You’re an adult and can work this struggle out for yourselves.

But, I would encourage you, in this holiday season, to ask questions. Sit down with the oldest person in your family, a cup of coffee and a list of questions. Spend time getting to know better the people you’re supposed to know best, your family.

I’ve made a quick list of 20 Questions to help start the conversation. Hopefully, many of these will get grandpa rolling. Listen carefully. Better yet, record the conversation. That voice, those mannerisms, the way he holds his head … it will be lost, sooner than you’d like. Your attentiveness and kindness will bring rewards.

  1. How would you describe your parents?
  2. Did you know your grandparents?
  3. What do you know about your great grandparents?
  4. If you had siblings, with whom did you get along best?
  5. Who were your best friends?
  6. Did your family have enough?
  7. What subject did you like most in school?
  8. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  9. Where did you go to high school?
  10. What activities did you participate in?
  11. Who was your first date?
  12. What was your first job?
  13. How much did you get paid?
  14. How did you meet your spouse?
  15. What was the marriage proposal or wedding like?
  16. Did you go to college or serve in the military?
  17. What national or international events do you have vivid memories of?
  18. How would you describe your life in one or two sentences?
  19. What do you want your grandchildren to know about you or the world?
  20. Is there anything you’d do differently?


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