My grandmother collected a lot of things. Boxes of newspaper clippings, photo albums of Polaroids, folders of sheet music, and Rolodexes of recipes. I never realized how much stuff my grandmother had until she passed away last August and we had to clean out her house. Beyond that, going through some of these things, I realized how little I actually knew about her.
I’m extremely fortunate that I have 21 years worth of memories with my grandmother, full of laughter and long conversations. While I was extremely close with her, I find myself wanting to know more about the life I discovered in those boxes she left behind. Here are some of the things I think we should ask our grandparents sooner, rather than later.
1. What they were like when they were our age.
The world was a hell of a lot different when our grandparents were 20-somethings and the best way to learn about it is to ask them. Maybe you’ll discover some similarities. Or maybe you’ll just hear some crazy stories. Either way, I’m sure they’ll be happy to talk about “the good old days.”
2. What your parents were like when they were our age.
I always wonder if my parents and I would be friends if we went to college together. This is a great way to find out about all the stupid things they did when they were our age. And really, this can only help you. Because when your parents reprimand you for screwing up, you can always remind them of that time they got caught doing the same thing…or even worse.
3. Love advice.
Love and marriage meant something entirely different to older generations, during a time where people married young and stayed together. You’ll probably get more traditional, conservative advice, but statistics show that fewer people broke up back them. They must have been doing something right.
4. Their biggest regret.
While I don’t think anyone likes thinking about the “what-if’s” of life, our grandparents might welcome the opportunity to reflect and provide some valuable life lessons. This question, regardless of the answer, will give you a good idea of how they’ve lived their lives up to this point. Maybe it’ll even help you avoid certain mistakes down the road.
5. The key to happiness.
They’ve grown up, worked hard, fallen in love (maybe multiple times), and raised a family. Now, they’re retired and have the time to do the things they truly enjoy. Somewhere along that journey, they probably stumbled upon something that made them truly happy. Ask them about the things that have brought them joy.
The best conversations I had with my grandmother were while we played cards. I’ll always remember the time she admitted that she almost eloped with a man that was not my grandfather. (And then joked about how if she had, I wouldn’t exist). So next family gathering, strike up a conversation with one of your grandparents. You never know what you’ll find out.