Stories untold

August 2, 2017 § 3 Comments

I’ve been working on the loveliest job – a grown-up grandchild wants to capture something of her grandparents’ lives while they’re still around to tell their stories, and hired me to ask the questions and compile the answers.

So, on a couple of recent afternoons, I have driven to their retirement village, taken up a seat on their sunny patio, with a view of the most beautiful gardens, and listened to them as they reminisced.

And what a delightful way to round up the working day! I’ve heard tales of derring-do: men who carried wounded battle-mates across the North African desert in World War II, rogue Hungarian taxi drivers, and a car full of nuns that sank into a river with tragic consequences.

But I’ve also heard beautiful stories rooted in the ordinary – dancing in the lounge to favourite tunes on the radio, family singalongs around the piano, bowls of dough set on a warm windowsill to prove. Young lovers park their cars at a meeting spot every day on the way to work. Mothers scold their offspring for wasting food in one moment and gather them into their laps for a spot of comfort. A father surprises a daughter with a new bicycle. People die, babies are born, children grow and move away.

This simple assignment, born out of a granddaughter’s love, has reminded me that the important things in life aren’t things at all. The fabric of life is woven from love, laughter and loss: the rest is just window dressing.

It’s also made me want to repeat the exercise with my own father, stepmother and beloved uncle. I have so many questions; they have so many answers. We take our elderly relatives and pack them away in retirement villages and forget that they were once just like us – young and vital, brimming over with hope and energy. They’ve walked a path we have yet to follow: they have advice for the journey we’d do well to heed.

Finally, it has reminded me of why I love what I do so much – because it’s all about stories. I love to write stories; I love to hear them. Most of all I love the challenge of asking just the right question to find the story buried beneath the apparently mundane surface of someone’s life.

And the best part is that you really don’t have to go far to hear one, because everyone has a story.

Won’t you tell me yours?


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