By guest blogger, Deanna Shoss, Intercultural Talk.

Tell us a story Grandpa

As parents age there’s more of a yearning to share things that haven’t been shared, to feel that you are heard and known, to feel like you made a difference.

For the parents, it’s wondering what will be remembered about you, your legacy. For adult children (aka me), it’s the anxiety of realizing you may lose someone and never really have known who they are.

Most recent conversations with my dad at this stage have more been about physical comfort. How are you feeling? When is the next procedure? I used to be able to distract him (ha—marketing code for me really needing his help!) by asking for advice. As founder and head of an award winning full-service advertising agency and one-time “Direct Marketer of the Year” for the City of St. Louis, my dad’s got great experience. And no matter how modern the communication vehicles get (think texting, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) good, clear, concise communication is still the most effective in communicating your message.

But, I digress. My dad has stories, and he wants to tell them, but wants to know the listener is interested. I hear it in my dad’s voice, particularly when he is talking to my son. “What do you want to know,” he asks. “Ask me anything.”

And then there’s silence, or “I don’t know.” There is that “you don’t know what you don’t know.” How do you ask something when you don’t know what the world of possibility is?

In pondering the question…I realize, we do know what the world of possibility is—we know where dad/grandpa (or mom/grandma) grew up, basics of their life—and some universal things to being human in your country and culture.

So, to never have an “I don’t know moment,” again, here are some questions that could lead anywhere, to have on hand—either in response to an offer or just as a conversation starter.

  • What were you most afraid of when you were a kid?
  • Did you go to your senior prom? How did you ask your date to go with you?
  • What was one thing about you that drove your parents mad?
  • What was one thing that drove you crazy about your parents?
  • What did you used to get in trouble for when you were a kid?
  • Tell me a story about an outing you had with your dog.
  • Tell me a secret that you and your sister shared.
  • Tell me a story about your best friend*
  • What was the favorite thing that your grandma baked or cooked for you?
  • If you had one big lesson you learned that would help me in life, what would it be?

It’s amazing to walk into a room of someone not feeling so well, and to see them become animated as the experience comes back like it was yesterday.

What do you want to know?

*on that one, my dad and his best friend from grade school are still best friends. In fact, always and still a practical joker, now he does things like hide my dad’s cane.