This is the memory book with a difference. Most books created to record grandparents' memories focus on the answers. Questions to Bring You Closer to Grandma and Grandpa focuses on the process. It dares to suggest that the process of interviewing Grandma and Grandpa might be more important than the information elicited.
The Questioning Process
The "Questions to Bring You Closer" books first focused on parents, but the team of Stuart Gustafson and Robyn Freedman Spizman soon realized that grandparents are a natural focus of such books.
"We don't know how much time we will have with our grandma and grandpa," the authors comment, "so it is imperative that we gather and record as much as we can now -- while we can. If this indicates a sense of urgency, then you have gotten the message."
Unlike most books of this type, this one contains elaborate instructions and suggestions for the questioning process. Profiles of different grandparent types with questions for each type are provided as warm-up questions. Then the real questions begin:
- Grandpa, how did others describe you when you were a young boy?
- What family member did you most look up to and want to be like?
- What do you value most when it comes to friends?
- When did you know that you wanted to get married?
- What are some life lessons that you impressed upon your children?
As this sample makes evident, the questions are mostly on the serious side. Some are directed specifically toward one grandparent or the other, and some can be answered by both.
The authors point out that this book can be used to learn more about your grandparents even if they are deceased. Other family members can contribute how they believe that Grandma and Grandpa would have answered the questions. The answers will not only give a fairly accurate picture of the grandparents but also should make for lively family gatherings.
How to Use This Book
Most books of this type simply ask the grandparents to fill in the blanks. This one lends itself to many different methods. The grandchildren can ask the questions and enter the answers, or the parents and grandparents can help them with the transcribing process. I have trouble transcribing accurately when people are talking, so I would probably record the answers and then transcribe them into the book, so that I could play back the answers if necessary. A recording of the interview process would be a cool thing to hand down to future generations, too.
If you feel overwhelmed by the recording and transcribing task, another family member or a personal historian can help.
The book's small size makes it easy to tuck into a purse or pocket, but I find it harder to write in than a larger book would be. This title is also available in a Kindle version, which does not allow for entering the answers. The questions could still be used to start interesting conversations.
One reviewer on another site said that she emailed her father a different question each day and then entered his answers into the book. I like that idea because it allows the person answering ample time to frame his thoughts, Still, some grandparents aren't conversant enough with computers to utilize that method.
However, as the authors emphasize, the method is used isn't nearly as important as getting it done. Grandchildren need have no regrets in the future about conversations not held and questions that they never got around to asking.