When my grandfather passed away after his battle with cancer, my relatives went through his house in the customary "I want that couch," "I want that lamp" period. By the time I got there with my aunt, the house had been picked clean of large items. No couch, no pots, no pans, no nothing...but that wasn't what I was looking for. I wanted to know him more.
I spent the next 8 hours exploring the unclaimed boxes he had piled in the basement. I looked through slides of his vacations from the 1980's. I read through his sermons that he gave to his congregations when he was just starting his career as an Episcopalian Reverend.
I realized that even though I was learning all these new things about him, I had more questions than ever! I wanted him to tell me the stories behind these photos and laugh about his fashion in the 70's.
As your parents or grandparents get older, your relationship with them can start to change. Maybe you have to help them pay their bills, get groceries, or even get around the house. Here are some creative ways to celebrate the time you have with them and make some new memories in the process.
1. Video Memoir
Difficulty level: 4️⃣
Making a family memoir video can open up doors that you never even thought to even look for. Sit your relative in front of a camera, if you have one, and talk about their life. Make a plan before you begin. Start with a chronological framework going from childhood, their parents, their hometown, and then progressing into their adult years. This will give you a solid base that you can always go back to if you veer off course or just get to gabbing.
From there, feel free to ask follow-up questions. If they mention something you have never heard before, ask them more about it!
The only downside of a video memoir is that it can be a large time commitment and might have a learning curve when it comes to editing, interviewing, and working a camera. The good news is, True Medusa Pictures offers professional video memoir services and has 7 years of documentary video production experience behind them to tell your relative's story in a beautiful and meaningful way. The final product is even delivered on a flash drive in a beautiful little box that you can keep forever.
2. Recipe Book
Difficulty level: 3️⃣
Every family has their favorite recipes; those famous ones that you bring out once a year, the ones the neighbors keep asking about, the ones that the grandkids have funny names for. Make a catalog of all your family's recipes
Want to take it to the next level? Make some of those recipes and take pictures of your results! You will soon have a beautiful, professional cookbook on your hands. There are lots of options online for beautifully printed books you can design yourself that aren't going to break the bank either. Try Shutterfly, Blurb, or Book Baby and see what options you like.
3. Photo albums
Difficulty level: 2️⃣
Going through and re-cataloging photo albums can be a great bonding experience for families who are looking for a reason to reconnect and spark some meaningful conversations. Each time a photo brings up a memory for them, write a little note or story on the back of the photo. There are also lots of inexpensive resources online for making a professional, printed photo book that can be a great keepsake for everyone in your family. Try Shutterfly, Blurb, or Book Baby and see what options you like.
4. Write a book
Difficulty level: 3️⃣
If you don't have a camera for the video memoir, there is no better alternative than the written word. Record your relative's stories on your phone or just write them down. Once you feel like you have enough, turn it into a book!
I'll start to sound like a broken record, but...There are also lots of inexpensive resources online for making a professional, printed photo book that can be a great keepsake for everyone in your family. Try Shutterfly, Blurb, or Book Baby and see what options you like.
5. Library of congress
Difficulty level: 2️⃣
Is your relative a veteran of the U.S. military? The Library of Congress has a program called the Veterans History Project that allows people to submit videos, any documents, letters, photos, etc. to be preserved in American history forever. No video editing in involved, in fact, they prefer that there is none. All you have to do is fill out some forms and click submit. This can make a great Christmas gift for someone who wants to share their military service and be a part of the history books.
6. Have a conversation
Difficulty level: 1️⃣
Sometimes all you need is a good conversation you've never had before, and it fits all budgets because it is free! Feel free to ask them about their childhood, their parents, what they remember about important moments in history, when they felt the happiest, and more! Not sure what to ask? Here are 20 questions to ask your parents or grandparents to get your started.