Parenting Perspectives: I want them to know Grandma loved to dance
How will I be remembered by my immediate descendants? And what about the later ones who will only know me through faded photos or yellowed newspaper clippings or, perhaps more accurately, old Internet sites?
I am not so old that I am thinking about death, but my daily work duties include placing obits on the page(s), and I always read them before they go to print.
Some of them are short and sweet, if you will; others are extensive and full of the deceased’s travels and interests and places of employment. Most obits are serious, but some include lighthearted bits of information, including one from many years back that was hard to forget: The deceased’s favorite meal was “steak smothered in pork chops.”
It’s difficult to read “the story of one’s life,” without comparing it to your own.
I’ve only lived in three cities, and except for an additional part-time job taking catalog orders over the phone, my employment has been in the newspaper business.
I’ve written my basic obituary and placed it with a list of necessary financial information and my funeral wishes. My daughter fears it might be difficult to find a bagpiper to play “Amazing Grace.” I told her that would be her problem because I would be gone. It will be among the great mysteries of death whether I will know if she succeeded.
But the simple obit draft will tell my descendants little beyond where I lived and what I did for a living.
What about the fact that I loved to dance and took lessons for seven years, but that I could not blow bubble gum bubbles; that I played “cowboys and Indians” as a child and, with my friends, had a “fort” in the coulee near our homes; that I was a bridesmaid a couple of times but never went to prom?
I am a journalist, for heaven’s sake, but did I ever “interview” my family members? No. My parents came to North Dakota from an area on the border of Nebraska and Kansas. The story was that my father and two of his brothers were headed to Alaska to seek their fortunes but their car broke down in Minot and “that was as far as they got.” Later, my mother followed him to Minot and they were married in 1929 in the Ward County Courthouse.
How wonderful it would be if I had that and other family stories in their own words, perhaps on tape.
When my older brother and I “became orphans,” as he put it, the pastor at my mother’s funeral noted that we were now the “keepers of the stories.”
Those stories resulted in my brother becoming a writer later in his life as he devoted his time to genealogy.
I can roll out the long “family history” list of names and dates that my brother meticulously researched, but there’s more that I want my grandsons to know.
When they look at photos of my parents and grandparents, I want them to know that my grandmother crocheted, played solitaire and liked to watch wrestling on TV. I want them to know my father liked to fish and loved baseball (he often watched a game on TV while listening to another on the radio.) I want them to know my mother wrote poetry, had beautiful penmanship, did crossword puzzles and made really good banana bread (which I can duplicate) and a cherry dessert (which I can’t).
Forget what little will be said in my obituary. I am the “keeper of the stories,” and I intend to start writing them down.
Maybe someday my great-great-granddaughter will read them and find that her ancestors, including her great-great grandmother, were rather interesting people.