Friday, June 19, 2009

Article #60 Dads are Different

Father’s Day might be a good day to consider starting to compile your dad’s life story, if it’s not written. Some men are journal keepers, most aren’t. When you finally decide to record his history, it can be a challenge. Remember to ask open-ended questions you want answered before you interview him. It does takes time for that special man in your life to feel comfortable enough to openly discuss his life.

Years ago, I compiled a history of my step dad who was a stoic WWII veteran. He didn’t say much unless you got him talking about the war or politics. No one had ever written his life story down. When he was in his late 80s and having health problems, I decided it was time to interview him and compile his life story for his posterity––many who lived in other states and didn’t see him often. I took notes which I transferred to the computer later for him to check for accuracy. At first I got just the facts ma’am. Later after he was more comfortable talking to me and enjoying telling his story, I started to ask more probing questions like…How did you feel about the war and the Japanese soldiers you were fighting?


His completed story was only twenty pages long and focused mainly on his war years, but I added some background information about his parents. His father was from Sweden and had served in the Swedish army. His mom was from Kansas and met his dad after he’d immigrated to America to work on the railroad. With family and military photos, my stepfather’s history started to come alive. From this project to preserve his legacy for future generations, I learned to understand and appreciate him more.

To be successful in writing a dad’s history, you need the cooperation of your subject. Finding a topic he likes to talk about is the beginning, whether it’s his military experiences, hobbies like hunting or fishing or his work. Listening carefully with genuine interest will build a relationship of trust. If your dad is deceased, it’s still possible to write a story of his life, but it will take more effort and research into his life and background. Interviewing your oldest remaining family members and others that knew him is important. Do it today, as none of us are getting any younger. It’s time to preserve your dad’s legacy.

7 comments:

kavita said...

Great post....my dad left us 9 yrs. ago and he was a very interesting person.....all three of us me,my sis an my brother have been collecting little details about him ....LIN,to know about your dad was very interesting.....thanks for sharing something so close to your heart.Regards.

SandyCarlson said...

Good one, Lin. Interviewing is a process built on trust. That can take time.

I remember interviewing a great uncle about his brother who died fighting in WWII. We talked for an hour about everything but this uncle until he found himself going straight to the heart of the story for me. How the mind works!

Nancy said...

Enjoyed your story and pictures. I wrote my Dad stories while he was living and presented them to him at different times. These were all about his uniqueness, hobbies, etc. I think he appreciated them very much.

gigihawaii said...

Yes, that is why I have published 3 memoirs, which cover 4 generations. They have been sold to the University of Hawaii campus libraries as well as to the Hawaii state public libraries. They are also available at Borders and Amazon.

It is wonderful to know that these memoirs are being read by strangers as well as by friends and relatives.

Linda Reeder said...

My dad has been gone a long time now, but he did write the story of his early life when he still could. We are very happy to have that.

Kay said...

Excellent post, Lin and just in time for Father's Day.

Rambling Woods said...

Good idea...Oh my Dad..as many issues as my Mother...sigh...