Your Favorite Grandparent

One of the questions I ask of our LifeStories Alive interviewees is, “Were you particularly close to one of your grandparents?” I know it’s not politically correct to have a “favorite” grandparent, but we naturally are attracted to, and are closer with, one of our grandparents. This special relationship can be life-changing.

I met with an acquaintance today named Dave who loving told me stories about his grandfather (who died about ten years ago). Dave and his grandpa would go out on his ranch near Fredericksburg, TX, just the two of them, and talk for hours on end. He felt that his grandpa was telling him personal stories about his life, including his experiences in World War II, that he had not shared with anyone else. As Dave this afternoon was telling me this, his face lit up with the greatest smile. I could feel the special bond he had with his grandpa.

I have heard of many such relationships with many of the people I talk with. I’ve always wondered, What sets up those special conversations and relationships? I feel one of the reasons is the “safe place” a grandparent feels with that one grandchild. While those people of Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation are typically very humble, their stories will flow like a river when they feel that they are in a safe place to share them. Creating such a safe place is one of the skills I have learned and teach in my work at LifeStories Alive.

So if you had a favorite grandparent, remember them today and honor their memory (or present-day life) by sharing their stories with someone else, or better yet, by recording them for future generations to know. Remember, one day you, too, might be a favorite grandparent for someone special in your life.

Hand-Written Letters and Notes

Hand-written letters and notes are something that we might find only in museums in a few years. While the massive acceptance and use of email makes us more efficient in our communication, it robs both the author and recipient of a priceless artifact … your signature. By signature I don’t only mean your name signed at the bottom of the letter, I mean your handwriting, penmanship and feelings put into what you write as well.

As I do the pre-interview work for each of my interviewees at LifeStories Alive , I ask them for a favorite letter from a parent, grandparent or spouse written to them many decades ago. As you can imagine, those letters, like the memories we have of those people, become priceless heirlooms after the authors have died.

Try the following experiment  yourself and see what happens: Go into that buried drawer or box in the closet or garage and pull out a letter that someone wrote to you or you wrote to them decades ago. As you read the letter (and be honest with yourself) what feelings and memories go through your heart?

By not writing a hand-written letter to someone you care about, you are robbing them of pulling out your letter many years from now and having those same feelings. And another point (perhaps more important than the previous one), isn’t it great to receive and read a hand-written letter someone has written to you? There’s benefits on both ends!

Today it felt good to practice what I preach. I wrote a hand-written thank you letter to all the attendees of my last StoryListeners Workshop. Please share the joy in writing. Besides, when it’s all written and done, it’s a fun thing to do!