1. What do you remember about the houses you lived in as a kid? Which one did you like the best?
1105 ½ Merryhill Rd.
This was your grandfather howell’s house for most of his adult life. It was the house that your grandma moved into with him, and I was conceived in - he oddly always puts it that way, must be pretty memorable.
I never lived there, but it was where I’d go to spend the weekend with him when your grandma insisted he act like a father.
I always loved that house, and loved the way it made me feel. It felt comfortable and manly and orderly and controlled. It was a fine bachelor pad, and I appreciated that many years before I even knew what a bachelor pad was or represented.
It smelled like brut cologne, turtle wax, and new electronics [back when they were made out of metal and wood]. The whole house was filled with little vintage trinkets and mementos saved out of stubborn sentimentality.
He always had an orange cat, always named Bush, slinking around the place. The carport was covered in decades of residue from gas fumes and motor oil and cleaning products, and would have gone up in a flash if ever sparked. Thankfully, your grandfather never smoked; for his many sloven vices, he loathed smoking and considered it a weak character trait.
That house sat on a hillside with a water tank up and behind it. I’d climb up that hill through the neglected almond trees to the water tower and feel pretty good about myself.
When I would stay with him for the weekend, I always felt like I was intruding, but I loved it anyhow. We’d eat burgers and fries and watch rated-r action movies and usually just go for long drives in his 1956 Bel Air.
Sometimes he'd sit me down at his tiny little card table that stood in for a dining table off to the side of the kitchen, and we'd eat there; but it was very obvious he felt awkward and it's likely that was the only time the table ever got used.
611 Bolen Dr.
This is the first house that I lived in that I can actually remember.
It was me, your grandma, grandad ron, and for a short time, uncle keith.
The walls and furniture were all dark wood, and the interior was packed with layers on layers of healthy houseplants - all because of your grandma.
There was a lot of great natural healthy light in that house; it was the perfect balance of light and dark.
That house had a big backyard, with two big mounds of grass, a patio covered in cat hair, a metal swing-set that would constantly pinch my little fingers, and a big stump of an old oak tree that was cut down. I used to swing the backside of a hammer against that stump to hack away the outer layers of bark, revealing big fat slugs and salamanders hidden inside.
That house felt really good. I remember happy summers playing in the front yard while your grandma and granddad would wash the cars in the driveway. The smell of cool water on hot concrete is one of my favorites, and evokes a sense of peace for me - that same sentiment is how I remember that house.
842 Red Cloud Rd.
We moved into this brand-new house when I was about 7 years old, I lived with your Great-Granddad & G.Grandma Swank [Max and Emma-Jean] while the house was being built. That’s where I lived until leaving home. A lot happened in that house, a lot of memories, and I’m not sure how to objectively describe and remember the house itself without bringing a lot of other
2. What did you have as a child that kids today don’t have?
3. Has anything ever happened at a family wedding that you’ll never forget?
4. Think of some relatives that have passed away in the last few years. What would they be doing right now if they were with you?
5. Which family member has been your greatest coach in life? How have they coached you? What has made them good at it?
6. When you were a teenager, which family member did you go to for advice? Looking back, was it good advice?
7. What was your favorite movie or book when you were my age?
8. Tell me a story about a family reunion or family party that you remember attending as a child.
9. What was the hardest thing you went through as a child? How did you overcome it?
10. What are your favorite stories that grandpa/grandma told (or still tells)?
11. If you could know anything about our family history or about a relative who has passed away, what would you want to know?
12. What is the most embarrassing thing your mother or father ever did to you?
13. What are your best memories of holidays or family gatherings as a child?
14. What three adjectives would your grandparents use to describe you?
15. Did your parents or grandparents ever lose their jobs? What happened? How did they start over?
16. What is the best thing that your grandparents ever cooked? What about your parents?
17. How did your parents change after they retired?
18. If you could go back to one day in your childhood, which day would that be? Why?
19. How are you most different from your parents and grandparents? How are you the same?
20. What did your grandparents do with you that you loved? What did they do that you didn’t enjoy so much?
About His Childhood
What are some of your earliest memories? This question can evoke some interesting stories about things that your dad remembers about his childhood. Sometimes the things we remember from our earliest years have the greatest impacts on us as we grow up.
What do you remember most about your dad? This question can take a number of forms. You might want to take a more positive spin on a question like, "What traits did you most admire in your father?" In any case, questions along this line can help define how your dad formed his attitude and approach to fatherhood. It may also lead to deeper discussions about Dad's personal history.
Is there anything that you wish you had asked your parents but didn't? This question can help dad focus on what he might have missed growing up or on what things he remembered that were not discussable as a child.
Who was your best friend in elementary school? Asking this question will help dad remember some of the fun times he had as a child and the people he associates with those times. Follow up with questions about what he did with his friend outside of school or about his favorite outdoor activities growing up.
Did you ever win an award? Almost everyone likes to be recognized, and asking a question like this will help you see what things your Dad was recognized for as a youth. It may give you some insight into where his special gifts and talents were as a young man.
What did you want to be when you grew up? It can be interesting to get a glimpse into Dad's early aspirations and interests by asking questions along these lines. Follow up with questions about what changed that led him down a different path (if he followed a different path).
About His Young Adult Life
How did you meet mom? Every love story has an interesting beginning and your Dad would probably love to tell you about it. He may remember it differently from your mother, but that's still OK. His perspective is more important than the precise facts. And this perspective will be important as you consider your family's personal history.
What was your first job and how did it go? Many men associate their self-worth through their jobs, and talking about what he learned on his first job will start a discussion about his work and career.
Did you have a mentor growing up? Sometimes, particularly in our young adult years, people other than our parents have a big role in our development. Learning about your dad's mentors can help you get insight into who influenced Dad's life and helped him make the shift from childhood to adulthood.
What mistakes taught you the most about life? This is a pretty introspective question and will help Dad think about what he has learned from the hard times. You can also get a little view into his personal history and his own "humanity" by asking about mistakes he made in his early life.
How would people who knew you in high school describe you? This can be a telling question about how your dad might think others see or saw him. Often our view of ourselves is formed in our teenage years, and Dad will have a chance to reflect on that and about how his high school years influenced him.
About Being a Father
Are there things you wish you had done differently as a father? Questions along these lines will help dad think more about the quality of his role as a father and may identify some things that could influence your role as a parent.
What do you enjoy most about being a father? This question will help dad remember some of the better moments of his life as a dad and will help you see what he liked about his role. A good follow-up question might involve the things he least liked about being a father.
Do you think today's fathers have things harder or easier than you had them? This is a great question to help dad reflect on the changes that have occurred since he became a father. You might get a good sense of his view of technology, entertainment, faith, work, etc. with a question like this.
What traditions did your father pass on to you that you passed on to your children? Sometimes, we can't quite figure out where something Dad taught us came from. Questions like this will help you get some insight into his personal history and how traditions shaped his own approach to being a father.
What was one of the hardest moments you had being a father and why was it hard? Sometimes it is tough to be a dad and the times when it was toughest can give you some great insight into why you dad parented the way he did and can give you a sense of his awe about the role of a father.
About His Personal Views
What are the three happiest moments in your life so far? This will help you get a sense of what has been important to your dad over his lifetime and what has helped him find personal satisfaction.
Is there something that you wish you had experienced that you haven't yet experienced? This is a gentle way of getting at some of Dad's regrets or just things he dreamed about but didn't experience. It may be a sad or melancholy response, but is a question that will give you insight into Dad's world.
What world events have had the most impact on you? Seeing how your dad fit into the world and the events of his time can offer some interesting insights. This question can help you see how his times most influenced his life.
Is there anything you always wanted to tell me but never have? Opening the door with a question like this can add some great insights into your personal relationship with your dad.
How would you like to be remembered? Try to ask this one in a way that doesn't make your dad think he is leaving life anytime soon. But finding out what Dad hopes for his legacy will create some great insights and will help you see what aspects of his life are most important to him.
1. As a kid, what did you think you wanted to do for a living?
2. In hindsight, is there a time you didn’t stand up for someone or something (a person, a cause) but wish you did? Why didn’t you at the time?
3. How has your idea of what it means to be a man changed over the span of your life?
4. What’s one thing your mom or dad always used to tell you growing up that turned out to be true?
5. What were some of your biggest insecurities when you were in high school?
6. Are you where you thought you’d be at this point in your life?
7. What was the first time you remember really getting your feelings hurt? By whom and what happened?
8. Who was the first person you said “I love you” to in a romantic context? Did he or she say it back?
9. (If your parents got married): What was the moment you realized you wanted to marry Mom or Dad?
10. If you could have dinner with three famous people, living or dead, who would they be?
11. What did a typical Friday night look like for you at age 17?
12. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but never got the chance?
13. When do you feel the happiest?
14. What’s one underrated but important skill a person should possess?
15. What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
16. What has been your favorite age so far and why?
17. How do you want to be remembered?