Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.
June 22, 2012 3:43 PM   Subscribe

Several years ago, my husband's close friend died suddenly. Now the friend's oldest son is graduating from high school, and his wife asked my husband (and others) to pass on some personal accumulated wisdom and memories. What kinds of things should we address?

I'm sitting here typing while my husband talks, which seems to be the easiest way.

Apologies for being pedantic, but specifically, I've seen those "What do you wish someone had told you when you were 20?" threads. I'm not looking for you to tell me what you wish you'd have known (i.e., the answers or the pearls of wisdom themselves), but the questions you were asking back then.

So, for example, if you said, "I wish someone had told me how to deal with being lonely" I would ask my husband, "How do you deal with being lonely?" and he would share his 30+ years of wisdom so I could type it out.

The same goes for talking about the kid's dad. If your dad had died when you were, say, 13, what do you wish you knew about him? What do you wish you could call on later in life?

The kid is pretty cool, but slightly young and nerdy, as far as I can tell. He lives in a manufacturing town where there's not a lot going on, and is going to the local community college to study culinary arts. (For reference, another friend who took the same path is still in that town, working at a chain restaurant. I'm hoping we can encourage the kid to at least travel if he can.) The dad was a magnetic personality who drew people to him and dominated gatherings. I.. don't think the son is. His wife has remarried to someone who is pretty much the opposite, but I think they're reasonably happy.

We live several hours away, but the kid knows my husband and they're Facebook friends. (All-important.)

Any other ideas for how we could contribute to this gift would be very much welcomed. Thanks!
posted by Madamina to Human Relations (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
How do you deal with feeling like the decisions you make now (at 18) are going to impact the rest of your life? (I think this is what you are looking for?)
posted by desjardins at 4:03 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think, that if my dad had died when I was 13, I would love to hear stories from his friends that knew him in a way I didn't (or couldn't given my age when he passed). I think it would be neat to get to hear anecdotal stories of my father from his friends, and now that he is older you can tell him some of those that may not have been age appropriate before. Of course, the given, your dad was so proud of you stories are also something that I would welcome, even if they made me cry.

I suppose I wish someone would have told me why it is important to do something that you are passionate about, and that that in itself is something to be proud of. Maybe personal stories of how your made it through the tough times, which everyone will inevitably have.
posted by Quincy at 4:06 PM on June 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

This is one of the most popular AskMes of all time. Someone's son was graduating, and he asked for a compilation of the best helpful AskMes. It's not quite the same thing, but still, there are some great nuggets in there.
posted by HeyAllie at 4:22 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

My dad did die when I was 13 and what I'd like to hear but never got the chance to would be stories of himself growing up. What did he do with his friends, how did he feel about learning to drive, being an adult, his first beer. What things do his friends remember about him. What wacky things did he get up to. What his favourite things were (sports, books, music, etc).

All the odd things that you pick up about your parents as you get older and you realize they were real people. I have missed that with my father and when I see friends who have a close relationship with their living dad it hurts a bit.

The questions I had at 20 were along the lines of it is ok to be more interested in a trade than traditional education, would my dad be proud of me, who am i, what meaning does this life have etc.
posted by kanata at 4:24 PM on June 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

If I had lost my dad, I'd like more info on him. Anything, doesn't have to be big (although those are great too), how he used to rub his neck if he was tired, what did he like to laugh at, what activities he liked doing, what he was like when the kids weren't around, etc etc...
posted by Neekee at 5:08 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

This is another gem from AskMe for advice for high school graduates.

More specifically though, I think stories about his father and why your husband became/stayed friends with him would be much appreciated.
posted by ambrosia at 5:51 PM on June 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

a family member that's about that age has an absentee father. he loves to hear stories about his dad at his age and ways that his dad interacted with him as a young child. he doesn't like to be preached to and he can see it a mile away.
posted by nadawi at 7:05 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

My father died when I was 20 and I found out many things about him after his death that I had not known while he was alive. There are still a lot of things I don't know and probably will never find out. Nthing that what he will want is stories about his dad, even stuff you think he might know. For instance I didn't know anything about my father's military service (other than that he'd gone to school on the GI Bill) or that he had had a pilot's license until after his death.
posted by immlass at 7:15 PM on June 22, 2012

What I treasure knowing about my dad are stories about him at that age, and stories about how he felt about me and being a father. I like both the "he was so proud.." stories and also funny stories about him adjusting to being a parent. That makes me feel like I can be a parent some day and yeah, makes him more like a real (normal, fallible) human being who actually consciously decided to make space for me in an otherwise cool life instead of just My Father.

I'd also want to know what he liked about me, particularly that he liked me for who I am, so could your husband answer the question "how did his father feel about his interests and personality?" honestly in a way that affirmed this kid? It's risky, because you obviously don't want to lay a trip on him about who he should be.

The other big question at that age is how to handle relationships. How do you know if you're really in love? How do you handle a breakup? How did he decide to get married (if he did)?
posted by salvia at 7:30 PM on June 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

My dad died when I was 12. I got a very hurried discussion on tying a tie and shaving (way before I had a need for other) but that was it for basic life's lessons, so ANY of that stuff is important. I tend to question my knowledge on it as a result. Top of my head: how to treat others, avoid a fight, be happy, choose a life partner, start a family, find friends, avoid debt, get out of debt, make wise purchases, shave, tie a tie, what to eat, mind calories, cut nails without generating those damn painful things on the sides (no idea on the name), avoid obsessing, why math/science/civics/home skills are important, and more importantly, find out that information on their own. I'm still working on some of those. Double edge shaving saved me a ton of money, for instance, and helped the case of razor bumps I had (hadn't been taught about that). I started around 2000 before it was a craze, just to save money. The blades are cheaper and using a new blade every shave helped with the bumps. While we're getting uncomfortable, in grown hairs hit around age 30. Google only goes so far...

My single most treasured memory of my dad is when he took me to the shipyard he worked at. He put a white helmet on me, which only admirals and up get, and just showed me where he worked, what he did, and the people he knew. He'd been diagnosed by that point, but I didn't connect the two. Knowing that his nickname was Diesel Bill, and that Diesel Bill knew everyone and was well respected due to his knowledge and willingness to teach it to others, had a massive impact on my development. I got some of that at home, but usually just focused on whatever I'd done wrong. So it was a good counterbalance.

For this side of things, just talk about knowing him. Was he good with tools? Calming people down? Athletic? The treasures here are the stories. He's old enough now where you can probably mention mistakes too. What did your husband learn from him? What were his hopes for his children and wife? What were his stories about them? If this guy is the eldest child, he'll probably be responsible for sharing this with the others.

Being willing to answer the phone and chat, and opening that door by forming a relationship with the guy, is a huge help too.
posted by jwells at 6:58 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

How to tell the difference between what is a big deal and what is not a big deal.

How to handle it when you've messed something up that hurts people or acted in a way that you regret.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:06 AM on June 23, 2012

I didn't know my dad very well at that age, and what I wanted to know and eventually asked him when i was 23 was:
*how did you get through tough times in your life when it seemed like everything was going wrong?
*what did you want to be when you were a teenager?
*tell me about the girls your dated before Mum
*what was it like growing up in your family?
*why did you move to Australia?
*tell me about when you were in the army
*how come you had kids?
posted by lifethatihavenotlivedyet at 10:25 AM on June 23, 2012

My father passed when I was 16. When I was going through his things with my mom, I found that I barely knew him. Now that my mom is gone, I'm worried that I never really knew either of them. I'd encourage you to share anecdotes of his dad at that age (or when he was young/in college) if your husband knew him then. Even little things like "your dad really loved to write and would send me these long handwritten letters when we lived on opposite coasts" might blow his mind if he never saw his dad doing that.

As for questions:
- What can I expect from the world now that I'm done high school?
- What happens if I screw up at post-secondary school?
- How do I know what I really want to do with my life?
- Everyone else seems to have it all planned out! How do they do it?
As well as practical skills like how to dress for formal events/interviews, how to tie a tie, how to budget, etc.
posted by buteo at 11:55 AM on June 23, 2012

I'd try to write the things the Dad would have said. And I'd write personal anecdotes and thoughts about the Dad, not just what a saint he was, but also endearing flaws, and maybe even more. I found out from my aunt that the reason my Dad spent a year at prep school was because he fluffed off a lot in high school. It was encouraging. Also, if you have any pictures of him, enclose them.

jwells, my dad died when I was 20, and my oldest brother was 28.
how to treat others, avoid a fight, be happy, choose a life partner, start a family, find friends, avoid debt, get out of debt, make wise purchases, shave, tie a tie, what to eat, mind calories, cut nails without generating those damn painful things on the sides (no idea on the name [ingrown toenails?]), avoid obsessing, why math/science/civics/home skills are important, and more importantly, find out that information on their own.
My brother and I, and probably a few of the other sibs, felt like we never learned that stuff, either. I think a lot of adults feel this way, and it probably helps explain the popularity of askMe.
posted by theora55 at 4:25 PM on June 23, 2012

« Older Blisters, again!   |   Can you really hold down a job? REALLY? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.