Often, at dinner, my children ask me for a story about my earlier life. And honestly, those memories can be hard to recall on the spot. I’m not the best journal keeper, so all my stories have to come from my memories. I used to be fine with this plan. But, after the recent loss of all my grandparents, I realized how important it was to me to know who they were when they were my age. My grandparents were also rather poor journal keepers. So, I’ve started collecting memories from other family members about my grandparents.
My mother told me about the time she was sick for months when she was a young child. I learned how the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with her and how my grandmother worried and worried over her. I learned that my grandmother was fearful that my mother would die. And, I learned how after a long, and wasting, illness my mother received an experimental medicine – penicillin – and miraculously she recovered.
I learned from my brother about how my grandfather would come help him clean the hospital offices at night so that my brother could return to his young family and medical studies faster. I learned from my sister about how my grandfather would also wait for her to finish her shift at the local store, so that he could give her a ride home – instead of her needing to ride her bike in the dark for two miles. I learned from my great aunt that my grandmother and I have similar hair coloring. All my life, my grandmother’s hair was dyed black.
I have my own memories, of course. But these are all memories of my grandparents that happened before I was around or aware. And these stories might seem insignificant or even silly, but these details help me better understand who my grandparents were – and therefore, who I am.
I want to collect enough of these memories so that my children will have a chance to know who their grandparents were. This family history will give them a better sense of who I am, and therefore, who they are too. In a way, these memories will link us all together, maybe explain some of why we are the way we are, and help us better understand how to handle difficult situations in the future.
So, I’m writing them down. I’m writing them down the old fashioned way – with a pen and paper. I hope to make the collection of memories something my children can have access to immediately – not later when I’ve printed it off. I’m writing down the memories I have about my grandparents, and the memories I’ve collected from other family members. Once I have written down what I already have collected, I’ll start collecting more. It feels like I have so much to learn about my grandparents.
I hope to collect and record one memory about each of my grandparents every month. I’m thinking Sunday will be a good day for phone calls.
How about your family? How do you collect the memories of your loved ones?