Maybe not as well as you think.
“Do you know where your children are” was a popular public service announcement (PSA) that ran back in the late 1960s when there were youth curfews all across the country. Those children, now aging baby boomers, may need watching again, by their children.
On one of my infrequent trips through Pensacola, FL I dropped in on my 80-year-old parents who were in good health and ok financially. They made a passing remark that they felt they were a burden on society (receiving social security and a Navy pension). They said they were no longer making a contribution to society and that life was for the young. While this was presented more as a passing comment I realized that the underlying message may have more serious ramifications. I feared that if they lost their sense of value that maybe life, in their minds, was not worth living.
Do you know what your parents and grandparents are really thinking and feeling when you are not around? I suggest that you may not. In my case, everything appeared fine when I visited them. I knew this because they lit up when I showed up on their door step and were therefore in great spirits (while I was there). I was unaware of how or what they were thinking and feeling when I was not around.
So, what is a son supposed to do when finding that his parents are questioning their value to society? Recognizing that Mom and Dad are uniquely qualified to review, reflect and share their life experiences, I set out on a mission to help them do just that by creating a private family web site where they could record their life experiences and reflect on the meaning of life as Dad had always been prone to do. I am happy to say that the family site and the process of creating it (by engaging Mom and Dad) did indeed help renew their sense of purpose as they felt they were doing something important for me and my siblings and all the grandchildren. Interviewing them for their stories was a very valuable and fulfilling bonding experience. It may actually have been one of the more important things that I have done in my life. My hope and belief is that it will impact yours as well when you help your parents document their stories.
Like me, you may find this to be one of the most important things you will have ever done.
Remember: Stories Left Untold are Legacies Gone Forever!