October 1, 2020

Interviewing Red

I recently observed a grandson (30ish) “interviewing” his grandfather (mid 80s). It was most tender. The grandson would, with great interest and gentleness, ask grandpa about the distant past. He focused on the first, and then the second (and so on) car grandpa drove. While grandpa was initially reluctant, he warmed to the task. Eventually gramps would, with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his lips, remember color and make of each car, size of the engine, how fast it went. Gas he said was only pennies a gallon. He noted the reputation he had as “Red”. Grandpa relished, it seemed, being a bit of a “bad boy” in these memories. Their relationship became closer as the old man could remember his youth with dignity and was energized with being a little out of his more recent “grandpa” and “great grandpa” character.

It occurred to me that often, when the old ask the young these same questions, it is seen as prying or criticizing. This interview had quite the different perspective. Part of the difference was the grandson asking honest questions. The grandson was genuinely interested. He wanted to hear of his grandfather; criticism was not part of his agenda.

Often when the older ask the younger the same questions, it is dishonest with the real meaning being “you were driving too fast” or you are being reckless. If too many dishonest questions are asked, then even when honest interest is intended, the questions become heard by the young as ongoing statements of criticism or prying. Communication shuts down.

What a nice conversation for this young man to have with an elder.
Real interest that nourished both. The foundation of honest questions and genuine interest was involved. These are great tools of communication.