My column last week was about my cousin’s pet project — the family newsletter. Two to three times a year a questionnaire is sent to family members. Many inquiries take us back in time. Some ask about celebrations for an upcoming holiday or, if summer is nearing, vacation plans.
The most recent survey centered on spring but included three brain-twisters that had me thinking so hard my head hurt. I listed them in last week’s column and suggested readers see how their family members respond.
One question asked if we could trade places with anyone, living or dead, who would it be. Another, if we could spend a day alone with one person, who would it be; what would we talk about.
Both were thought-provoking but neither stayed with me all week like, “If you could sit on a park bench with a family member, still living or not, who would it be and what would you talk about?”
I said either of my parents because I never dared ask how my grandfather’s suicide affected my dad and I’d really like to know. During our chat I’d ask Dad about the autoimmune disease he had, the one I inherited. It wasn’t something that could be ignored but back then, in my mind, if I didn’t speak about it, it wasn’t really happening.
Now, I’d selfishly like to know about the falls he took. How old he was when he had to stop driving. Markers for me to compare against my own.
If I could sit with my mother, I’d ask about her early years. An only child, Mom was eight when her mother died and her aunts, Ruth and Ann, were a big part of her life. Mom never talked about it, though. If we ever have the chance, when we finish our talk, I’d thank her for the job she did raising the five of us kids after she and Dad divorced.
My hubby’s response to the question was, “My uncle, Bob, the husband of my mother’s half-sister.” He went on to say that when he returned to Milwaukee after six years in the Air Force, Bob, who owned an automobile leasing and finance company, hired him as a car washer but he ended up as the comptroller for the leasing division.
“Bob had a great vision,” my husband said. “We accomplished a lot but what I’d want to talk to him about is golf, baseball and blackjack.”
I posed the query to two friends. One said the person with whom she would like to have a lengthy conversation is her great grandpa because she never thought to ask about his life, his struggles.
“Now that I’m older, I think about questions I didn’t ask and I’d like to know the answers.” She added she’d like to talk to her mom or dad, too, “not because I need any answers, but because I miss them”
Her husband said he’d like to have a discussion with his grandfather about nature, plants “and things of that sort.” He went on to say this grandparent understood biology and gardened for his own food.
He was a writer who helped build a highway in Alaska and was one of the original people to acquire property in North Dakota using the Homestead Act. He was interested in science, also, and his grandson, a mathematician, would like to talk to him about solving problems in a scientific manner.
So, what do you think? What family member would you want next to you on a park bench for a cozy conversation and what would you talk about?