Monday, February 22, 2016

Eighty: Questions (a birthday present)

My dad is turning 80 tomorrow, so this past weekend my sisters, some of my kids, and I went down to his place for a weekend-long celebration.  My dad is a retired physicist, and my sisters and I all went into math/science careers, so his birthday cake was truly wonderfully geeky, with his age in binary, in hindu-arabic numerals, and in roman numerals.  Dad loved it.  (One of my sisters mock-complained that we left off the hexadecimal).
Eighty:  "101000", "80", and "LXXX".  But of of course.

What do you give your eighty-year-old father (or grandfather) for his birthday?  Especially when you know he's trying to down-size his possessions?  I totally love what we decided to do, with huge props to K-daughter for suggesting the idea.

Here's my sister, loaning Dad a small voice recorder and showing him how to use it.   And together with the recorder, we gave him a little booklet of pictures of him, and also of us, but more importantly, of questions.

Everybody in the family asked a question or two for the booklet, and seeing the questions we came up with was so much fun.  Some of us asked to hear our favorite stories again, others asked questions about things that we thought would have really interesting answers.  The questions we asked, it turned out, said a lot about us!
The grandkids check out the questions that other relatives asked.  
Here are some of the questions we asked:
  • What is one thing you wish that you had passed down to your kids and grandkids?  [N-son] 
  • How many houses have you lived in, and why?  [J-son] 
  • Why did you decide to get Great Danes? How did the whole dog thing come about? [A dog-loving grandchild] 
  • What are some of the mistakes that you've made in life that have made you more successful?  What are some of the moments in your life that made you feel the most proud of yourself? [K-daughter]  
  • When is the first time you can remember being fascinated by physics?  How did the questions you were interested in asking change over time? [A grandchild in grad school]  
  • How did you start getting interested in Oz? How did that become a life-long interest of yours? [A book-loving grandchild] 
  • Who taught you how to drive?  What was scarier: learning to drive to teaching your daughters to drive?  [A 14-year-old grandchild] 
  • I really love a couple of stories that I've heard a few times, but would you tell them again?
     Not being cold, but wearing a jacket
     Running around the quad
     A box full of air
     How has technology changed in your life time
     First jobs - bowling alley, TV and bike repair shop
     Favorite music/record as a child
  • What was it like being an active member in the civil rights movement?  [a grandchild] 
  • Can you tell the story about how students didn't do their assignment about measuring shadows and how you caught them?  And . . . Are seat belts really necessary or just for race car drivers? [A son-in-law who likes to bend the rules] 
  • One of my most memorable moments of my wedding was when, after walking [your daughter] down the aisle, you handed her to me and said, “Welcome to our family.” I felt a tremendous sense of joy and pride at being included in such a remarkable group of people. Please share a story about each of your daughters that highlights why they are so special to you.  [a son-in-law who likes to follow the rules] 
  • What were some of your favorite games to play as a kid? Did you play much with your little sister?  [The youngest granddaughter] 

And now it's Dad's turn.  He gets to tell us stories and answers. They'll make it onto a recording that'll go onto CDs and MP3s, and we'll get to hear these stories at our leisure.

Happy Birthday, Dad!
Four generations: three of my kids, my dad, my granddaughter, and me!


  1. That is so cool!!! What a great idea!

    1. Thanks! When we decided to do this, I figured it would be something my dad would like -- it shows we actually listened to what he said in the past, and that we actually want to hear more. That always feels good!

      What I didn't realize is how much the rest of us would appreciate seeing the questions other family members asked. It has been a great bonding/conversation experience all around!