When a loved one passes away, it's not just their presence you miss. Along with their smile, their kindness, generosity and voice, the individual stories and memories that make up that individual are lost as well. With all the ways that currently exist to record and preserve memories, don't wait until it's too late to record the important information your grandfather has to share.
A study found that "the more children knew about their family's history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned."
To get the best information, and maybe even some new stories you've never heard, you will find the more specific the questions, the better.
Here is a list of questions to ask your grandpa the next time you visit.
Little details about the past and how children played are a piece of history. With the changing generations, technology, and other factors, you might find your grandfather had a completely different childhood than you. Then again, some things never change.
1. What games were popular when you were a kid?
2. Tell me about your best friend growing up? Have you kept in touch? What was special about this person?
3. Do you remember any particular sadness in your growing up years? Were there any tragedies or events that shaped you?
4. What types of things did you do as a kid that kids of the newer generation don't do anymore (paper route, etc.)?
5. What is the fondest memory you have of your mother and father? Grandfathers and grandmothers?
Jobs and hobbies
Information about your grandpa's career, jobs, and hobbies can give you an idea of how they spent their time. But, if you find that they are lonely or feeling bored, knowing what activities they found joy in can give you ideas for activities you participate in with them today.
6. What was your first job? What did you like about it? What did you hate about it? Any stories from that job that stand out to you?
7. Did you go to college? What did you study? Did you graduate? Any stories about college friends, professors, or trips?
8. What hobbies have you had that brought you joy? Did you collect anything (stamps, rocks, coins, etc.)?
9. Did you enjoy reading, writing, or creating art? What was the first book you can remember loving?
10. As a child, what were your career aspirations? Did those change as you got older? Why?
Family and friends
11. Have you asked your parents or grandparents how they met or what their courtship was like? Stories and memories of dating can inspire sweet and funny memories.
"From the day my grandparents met, and throughout their entire courtship, my grandfather wrote a letter to my grandma expressing his love for her," said Kellyn Brandt, administrative assistant at Sea Cliff Healthcare Center. "It wasn't until my grandfather passed that I learned about this, and it made me think about all the questions I could have asked him. Since then I've been hounding my grandmother for every detail about their love life."
12. (If married) How did you and your spouse meet? What were your other dating experiences like? How did you know your spouse was the one to marry?
13. As an adult, did you have any close friends who you've kept in touch with? Think about the friends who influenced your life and why they were important to you.
14. Name one thing about each of your kids (if you have them) that stuck out to you as they were growing up.
15. Name something about raising children that changed from your first child to your last.
Places you've lived
While your grandfather may have lived his life in the same home as his parents, there may be details you didn't know or expect. Learn about their travels and experiences both at home and away.
16. What do you remember about your childhood home? Where did you grow up, and where do you consider your hometown?
17. Did you ever move? What were your feelings when you moved? How many different places did you live?
18. Name each place you lived and one memory of each place that shaped your life?
19. Of all the places you've lived, which was your favorite? Which was the saddest?
21. How do you want your family and friends to remember you? Of all the ways people could describe you, what words or thoughts would you like to leave with them?
22. What are you most proud of in your life? Any relationship or professional achievements?
23. How has your faith or spirituality changed throughout your life? Where did you start, and where are you now?
24. Was there any experience or event in your life that you didn't think you would make it through? How did you persevere, and what did that experience teach you?
25. What was the kindest thing you've done for someone else?
Speaking with your loved ones about their lives is a way to record the pieces of your family history that live only with them. Beyond the record that these conversations create, talking to your grandpa will strengthen a relationship with him now, and you'll have plenty of stories to share with your children. And that's enough reason to pick up the phone or drive over and connect now.
Emily Ellsworth is a blogger at Emily's Reading Room, where she has been writing about all things reading since 2009. For book reviews, author interviews, and more about the latest in young adult fiction, visit her blog at emilysreadingroom.com.