A Present About the Past

family, gift guideVirginia HartComment

As I get older, I realize how much I cherish discussions with my parents about their lives. I love hearing their memories and what they have taken away from the years they have lived -- and despite whether or not I can relate to their opinions or if what I have become as an individual proves to be vastly different, I want to hear their stories.

So, in my plan to document them, I begin with my dad.

My dad is a big story-teller. He has a story or an opinion on everything, with which I don't necessarily always agree.  For this Father's Day, though, I bought him a hard-cover book titled "Memento: My Life in Stories" by Michael McQueen.

In McQueen's heartbreaking foreword, where he recalls the series of events that motivated him to write the book, he also makes an interesting claim:

Having worked with over 80,000 students, I can attest to the fact that young people today are searching for a meaningful connection with their family heritage more than ever before. While this may come as a shock to many parents and grandparents, I would suggest that the reason for such a yearning is clear -- this younger generation has grown up in an era that doesn't value the past. After all, not that long ago the process of "passing down" through the generations was at the core of our social fabric. Culture developed, history was preserved, craftsmanship was taught, and wisdom was bestowed through the stories passed down from father to son, mother to daughter, grandparent to grandchild. Whether around the campfire, the watering hole, or the dinner table, our elders showed us how the world worked and the meaning of our place within it. In just one short century, though, so much has changed. We have shifted from a "build-to-last" society to a "quick-fix" culture. We crave the newest cars and fastest computers, while anything deemed to be dated, old, and "yesterday" is simply disregarded or disposed. Our obsession with progress is typified by the modern-day doctrine that everything old is "bad" and everything new is "good". The link between generations is under increasing threat and young people sense it. In homes across the Western world, a dramatic role reversal is occuring: for the first time, it is the "tech-savvy" younger generation teaching their elders how the world works. While it is true that older generations were raised in a vastly different time, it is equally true that the principles, values, and experiences that guided and shaped their lives are as relevant and applicable today as they were in centuries past. I suspect that the advice and comfort to be found in the wisdom of older generations is needed even more than younger people recognize (or are willing to openly admit).

McQueen then fills the book with empty ruled pages listing questions at the top. He asks things like: "Who was your most influential teacher and why?" / "What was your first job and how much did you get paid?" / "What is your favorite sport? Why this one? What game or event was the most memorable to you?" / "Who and what were your biggest political and religious influences?" / "Do you believe in miracles and why?" / "How do you define success? Has this definition changed over time?" / "What do you remember about your grandparents?" / "Can you describe where you were when man walked on the moon, JFK was assassinated, Princess Diana died, and the attacks of 9/11 happened?" / "How did you feel when you first became a parent? What are some of your most vivid memories of your child(ren) as they grew up?"

I am hopeful that the collection of answers will provide a story and a very valuable keepsake. And yes, I realize this is a completely selfish gift, but I hope he enjoys it just the same.

To all the fathers in my life - my dad, my stepdad, my Papa, & my two big brothers -- I love you all.

Happy Father's Day.

until next time,