David Solie, in his book “How to say it to Seniors” reminds us that the two most important things to our elder parents are maintaining control of their lives and preserving their legacy. Our parents want to know how they will be remembered by their children and grandchildren. It’s important that we help them do that.
In the last few months that my father was alive I visited him at the rehab. center where he was trying to cope with Parkinson’s disease. He had lost the ability to walk and swallow but could still talk clearly. We would sit together every Wednesday afternoon and just talk. It was during these meetings that I really began to understand who he was. He told me of his life as the son of a Methodist Minister, having to move from town to town every few years as his father’s church assignments changed. He informed me that he never went with his parents to a department store to buy clothes. All his clothes were donated by members of the church. They would dump their cast offs in a barrel and he and his sisters would sort through them to add to their wardrobe.
If we did not have this time together I never would have really understood what his life was like and why he cherished every thing he had so much. Unfortunately I did not record these conversations. It would have been so valuable to share them with our daughter so she could understand her grandfather’s life.
That is why I want to advise you strongly to make the effort to sit down with your parents and record their history. I call it, creating a digital biography. Have you ever asked them how they met and decided to get married? Do you know what growing up was like for them? What was their relationship with their parents and their siblings like? Did they go through the Great Depression or World War II?
It is so easy now to record these conversations. It’s as simple as getting an old cassette tape record with a microphone. Just turn it on and start talking. But if you really want to do it right and you have a video camera, an IPad 2 or an IPhone 4 or 4S, you can record them in HD stereo. Don’t make it too complicated but just make the effort to preserve their legacy. Ten years from now you will be very glad you did.