When I was a little girl my grandparents lived in a grand house that we called “The Ranch”. It had a formal living room with antique furniture from one side to the other. Each piece had its own story of how it had gotten there and where it had been. It was the perfect place for my grandmother, who we affectionately called Mom-mom, to tell the stories of her upbringing in New Castle, England. I don’t know any more about those stories about her adventures then that because I was too young to enter the room during story time. It was a reserved for the older granddaughters. I sat outside the two huge french doors and peeked through a little key hole, hearing only the occasional muffled laugh. I was rather grumpy and bored by the time the doors reopened and I rejoined to the group.
As the years moved on, my grandmother was diagnosed with what we now know is Alzheimers. I never made it into the living room to hear her stories and it is something that puts a lump in my throat, even now some forty years later. So today I’m doing my part for the next generation to make sure this doesn’t happen to them. I want to help facilitate a chat that your child can have with grandma or grandpa that gets the grandchildren past those two “living room doors”…
Here are 10 conversations starters.
- When did our family enter the United States? What is our history?
- When and how did you meet our Grandma or Grandpa?
- Where and when did you get married?
- What was going in the world when you were younger?
- What was your profession? Is that what you wanted to be?
- Who were your childhood heroes?
- Do you remember any fads from your childhood? Popular hairstyle?
- Where was your favorite vacation?
- What accomplishment are you most proud of?
- What do you want people to remember about you?
Take 3 or 4 of the questions that most resonate with you. If mom or dad are suffering from dementia or simply need help remembering, ask other relative to help fill in the gaps prior to your visit. This is an opportunity to be a fun trip down memory lane for the whole family, as well as a lesson to remind kids that in Grandma and Grandpa were young once too. Maybe you could even do this with Great Grandma and Great Grandpa?
As for Mom-mom, on my very last visit, long past her days of recognizing anyone, she stopped, looked me full in the face, put her hand on my cheek and said with all the love in her heart…”you always were my little lamb”. So in the end I feel I got my special moment after all!