Capturing the stories of our parent’s lives
How much do we know about our parents’ lives? When do we realise the value of their experiences, and their impact on our own journeys?
I was only in my late forties when I comprehended how fragile our lives are. My parents were approaching their eighties, and I wanted a way to piece together their stories in an enduring way.
This wasn’t a new exercise — in fact, my dad started writing his autobiography five years ago. He wanted to put something together for my brother and I so we could read his story and pass it on to our own children and grandchildren. It would provide insight into all aspects of his life; the early years, the army days, his time with the Northern Rhodesia police, his life in the UK, South Africa, and the present day.
The scale of this task was understandably daunting, so he broke it down into six parts and started with part two (as one does!). But not all of us have the gift of writing, so our stories may not ever be recorded. Even my father has only developed the first two sections of his autobiography; the remaining four are untouched to this day.
I decided I wanted a record of his history to pass down through my own family, just in case the autobiography went unfinished. So, on my father’s last visit to Australia, we recorded a video where I asked questions about the parts of his life that were unknown to us.
After an initial hesitation, he started to enjoy the process and spoke until the video memory was full! This experience revealed new insights not only about his life, but about his friends, my mother, grandparents, and many other relatives.
Continuing to record his story
While we’ve wanted to repeat the exercise, my last trip to my dad involved helping him deal with changes in his circumstances. So now, to keep capturing the moments of his life, I’ve decided to write brief records and share them using the MyMeander app.
This has been great for my dad as well. He can comment on my memories, and attach photos or other documents (and let me know where I got the details wrong so I can change them!). He can also share new memories of his life, so we can fill in the gaps and continue to build his story.
If and when my dad begins to forget some of the details, it will be so valuable to have these records to share with him again. Who he is now will be revealed through who he was – his character, his passions, and the special moments that made his life meaningful to me and my family.
I know who you are, dad, and I value your story.