Friday, September 11, 2020

A CHALLENGE: Issued by Jody Feldman


This was my grandfather.
People loved him for his stories.
Other people. 
Not necessarily the adults in our family.

“We've heard that a million times, Dad.”
“Not again, Harry!”
“You know what's a really good story?” said the person who would change the subject. Except...

We kids didn't necessarily know the stories. At one time or another, my grandfather would reference the one about the bananas or the peach pie or the record albums. For years, the details of those stories would remain a mystery to my. Then my parents died and it came time to pack up their house. Among their possessions were two cassette tapes.

Unbeknownst to me, my dad and my aunt had arranged for my grandfather to meet with a woman who recorded personal histories. She asked questions about my grandfather's life, and he answered in such detail with so many great stories that the 90-minute session was over too soon. 

I was left with so many questions. Was he scared on the ship that brought him to America? On the haywagon before that? What was it like seeing his father, for the first time, when they were reunited in America? How did he and my grandmother meet? What did they eat all those years when they were trying to make ends meet?

I could go on for hours with the questions I have. Perhaps the biggest one concerns my other grandfather who came to this country, alone, speaking no English, and who adopted the last name of a dentist aboard, the man who had taken him under his wing. Why did he do that? What was their relationship like? What was his last name before that?

The point is, we don't ask enough questions. And it's not just questions to our grandparents.

When I was talking to my mother-in-law the other week, she recounted a story about how her  roommate dealt with the stress of college. Surprisingly, neither of her children heard that before. 

So my CHALLENGE to you is this:
Ask. 
Listen. 
Learn. 
There's gold in these stories if only we take the initiative to mine it.

2 comments:

  1. Love this. It is so true-as we get older the hunger for the stories...

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  2. Perfect challenge for a busy world. Being in the moment and paying attention...an important gift for all of us writers.

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