Thursday, August 19, 2010

An Interview with Grandpa, Part I

In April of this year, when I first began preparing a speech for my paternal grandmother's memorial service, I took out a piece of paper and scribbled down everything I could remember about my Grami. A handful of memories came flooding back immediately, but then the minutes ticked by and I'd written nothing more on my paper. I discovered that I really didn't know a lot about her. If anything, I had more questions than answers.

Questions like: What did my grandmother like to do in her free time? Did she like to paint or read or knit? What was she passionate about? What made her heart sing?

I scribbled down half a dozen questions, questions that I would later pose to my mom and my aunt, hoping to find out more about my grandmother's life. Although my mom and aunt were able to provide me with a few more tidbits of information and some funny anecdotes, in the end, some of my questions remained unanswered. As you might imagine, this saddened me.

But it also served as the catalyst for this project: An interview with my grandpa.

About a month ago, I interviewed my paternal grandfather, asking him 75 questions about his childhood, his parents, his siblings, his spouse, his children, and more. In creating the list of interview questions, I consulted a list of 50 Questions for Family History Interviews, along with James Lipton's list of questions. As the interview with my grandfather unfolded, additional questions popped into my head and I posed them to my grandfather on the spot.

I recorded the interview using a dictaphone. That is, after gaining permission from my grandfather to do so. Before the interview began, Grandpa spotted my dictaphone and said, "You need my permission in order to record in this state, you know?" I laughed and replied, "Right. Do I have your permission, Grandpa?" He jokingly answered, "It depends on the questions you ask."

My grandfather has such a great sense of humor that interviewing him was a real treat. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and I learned a lot, too. Several days after the interview, I pulled out the tape and listened to it over and over (playing and rewinding it as needed) as I typed up the questions and answers into a Word document.

I printed the interview text on sheets of card stock, and then cut the pages down to fit in the 7 1/2" x 6 1/2" binder.

I also rounded the corners and hole punched the pages.

But I wanted the binder to include both the stories of my Grandpa's life as well as photos of him and his loved ones.

Luckily, my mom had compiled a DVD of pictures for Grami's memorial, so I was able to quickly select 15 pictures and have them printed at Costco.

Although I've chosen not to share the entire interview here on my blog, I will gladly e-mail it to anyone in our family who would like to view it in its entirety.

Still, I'd like to share a few of my favorite questions and answers with you.

1. Do you have any nicknames?
I had a bunch of them. I remember in school one guy calling me Stretch because I couldn't reach the first shelf of the cupboard.

2. Did your mom call you Eddie or Edward?
I don't want to repeat what she called me.

3. Describe your parents.
Well, they were both very short. My father was not too hands-on; it was my mother who did the primary raising, discipline, cooking, washing. She was a stay-at-home mother; there were six of us in the family, so she had her hands full. She had more than her hands full with me.

4. Did you have family chores? What were they? Which was your least favorite?
Yeah, we all had to kick in. We cultivated about two lots with a hand spade. No rototillers and we didn’t have a horse. And then watering the vegetables and picking them. Also, we had those damn chickens. At one time, my dad had, I think, 150 chickens. And I do have some vivid memories of him out there killing the chickens, chopping their heads off and then turning them loose. And telling me to go get them. Chickens and I don’t have fond memories.

To be continued...


1 comment:

Alicia said...

This turned out absolutely BEAUTIFUL! I love it.

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