Talking to Your Grandparents

You’ve taken the first step and decided want to get to know your grandparents. You might decide to give you grandparents a call, add them on Facebook or take them to lunch but what on earth are you going to talk about? We’ve got the answers for you right here! We’ve made a list of things you can talk about, questions to ask and included some reader experiences, just for fun!

Current Events

Your grandparents watch TV and read the paper as well so if there is something happening in the world that is of interest to you, your grandparents will probably have an opinion on it too! And if not, they’ll want to hear yours!

“My grandma and I used to watch Big Brother and Bold and the Beautiful religiously. If someone was eliminated, we’d always discuss that the next time we saw each other. And when Ridge from Bold and the Beautiful was replaced with another actor, we talked about that for weeks!” – Steph

Past Events

Reminiscing is always fun so try talking to your grandparents about the past! Talk about anything from past personal events, like the time they bought you a doll for your 9th birthday, to major world happenings like 9/11. Again, they would love to hear your views on things and would love knowing that you remembered that one birthday or outing! Even wider world happenings like 9/11 might be an interesting topic, such as the reader’s experience below:

“I think most 90s kids will remember being extremely annoyed when CheezTV was cancelled one morning before school. At 7 years old, all I wanted was to watch Pokemon. It didn’t even occur to me that the Twin Towers had been attacked, nor why I should care. But I recently asked my grandpa what he remembered from that day and how he felt at the time. It was a real eye-opening conversation, I’m glad I asked.” – Zoe

Day-to-Day Life

A simple “how are you? how was your day?” is a super easy way to open up the conversation. Even if your grandparents don’t get up to much these days, even the details of mundane day-to-day activities could open up an insightful conversation. Or try telling them about your day, no matter how boring you think it was!

“My grandpa, who used to walk over an hour every day before he had his stroke loved it when I told him about my race training. “Last Saturday, I ran 14 miles. This weekend, I plan to run 15.” My grandpa would get a KICK out of how crazy I was.” – Isabel

Personal and Family History

If you really want to get to know your grandparents, ask them about their (and the family’s) past. Not only will you find out what made them who they are today but you’ll also get to experience history – a personal touch can make an event come alive.

Here’s some questions to get you started:

  • Where and when were you born?
  • How many brothers and sisters do you have? Tell me about them.
  • Did you have any pets growing up?
  • How did you meet your spouse? What did you like about them?
  • What big world events do you remember from the time you were growing up?
  • What inventions do you most remember?
  • What was your first job?
  • Did you know your grandparents? What were they like?

Family Traditions

Asking about family traditions is a great way to get to know part of your family history too! You’ll get to know your grandparents even better and show them that you’re interested in carrying on the traditions – something that they’ll appreciate!

Try asking:

  • How did this tradition begin?
  • What’s the meaning behind this tradition?
  • Has it changed since you started it?

That should be enough to kick start a conversation but if you’re stuck, the Legacy Project have uploaded a huge list of questions you could ask!

Have any suggestions of fun/quirky questions? Let us know in the comments!

Connecting With Your Grandparents

So we’ve shared plenty of stories of people who have already connected with their grandparents. But if you’re struggling to make that first step, never fear!

We’ve been chatting with Madelyn and Mary who gave grandparents some great advice on how to connect with their grandchildren but we’ve decided to turn it around and get you guys to start the conversation! Here are our top tips for starting a fantastic relationship with your grandparents:

  • Make the time to go with your parents if they are visiting your grandparents.
  • Give them a call or, for your tech-savvy grandparents, text them!
  • If your grandparents are even cooler and have Facebook, connect with them on there! They’ll love that you’ve made the effort and will love talking to you in your world.
  • Feeling old-school? Write them a letter. It’s more personal than Facebook or texting. They’ll really appreciate it.
  • If you play a sport, ask them to come along to the games.
  • Or if you’re into theatre or are in a band, they’d love to go see you perform.
  • Organise a regular lunch or dinner date.

Stuck on things to talk about? We’ll be sharing some ideas in the coming days, so stay tuned!

Get Involved

Do you have more ideas? Let us know in the comments below!

If you have a story you would like to share, email it to us at therealgrandparents[at]gmail[dot]com

Whats On – Grandparents Day

Make sure to wish a Happy Grandparents Day to your grandparents this weekend! Why not spend the day out with them to show your appreciation. Here are some cool things happening around the country that you might want to check out!

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Yep, that would be the ship name for “grandparents” and “camping”. And to celebrate grandparents day, there are free camping opportunities across the country. So if you want to spend some quality time in the great outdoors this weekend, be sure to check out The Gramping Association for more information!

Norton Street Italian Festival – Sydney

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Join all the nonni and nonne in Sydney’s ‘Little Italy’ at the Italian Festival this Sunday. With food, coffee and fashion stalls plus great entertainment, this is a perfect way to spend some quality time with your grandparents on their Day! More information here.

Night Noodle Markets – Sydney

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If you prefer a different cuisine, why not check out the Night Noodle Markets in Sydney’s Hyde Park. Sunday 26 October is its last day so take your grandparents for a bit of nighttime fun! More information here.

Open Air Cinemas – Brisbane

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With just 2 weeks left in Brisbane, the Open Air Cinemas is a great event for the whole family. Get there early to enjoy some free live music, games and ice cream! Sunday’s flick is the action-packed adventure, Jurassic Park – a perfect pick for grandchildren and grandparents alike! More information here. 

History Week 2014 – Melbourne

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Learn about the history of Melbourne and Victoria with a range of (mostly free) guided tours. Use it as a way to open up conversation about what life was like for your grandparents when they were younger. It will be a great bonding experience! Find out more information at the History Week 2014 website.

DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition – Melbourne

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Here’s one for the littlies (and those who just appreciate great animation – Shrek is one of the greatest movies of all time. No one will convince us otherwise)! ACMI is the first to hold the DreamWorks Animation Exhibition before it tours the world. Sunday is your last day to check it out before it leaves so head down with your grandparents for a fun day of animation goodness. More information here.

Fremantle Festival – Fremantle

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In its 109th year, Freo’s festival is the longest running in the country. A huge cultural event, its got live music, great food and wine and activities for younger kids. And don’t forget the amazing parade. If this sounds like something your grandparents will enjoy, you can find more information here. 

Carnival Macabre – Perth

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Start your week-long Halloween celebrations at Perth’s Carnival Macabre! Dress up in your best spooky costumes and enjoy a fun week of creepy stalls, movies and dancing. Check it out if you want a unique activity to do with your grandparents this Sunday. More information here.

CheeseFest – Adelaide

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For your foodie grandparents, how about trying out CheeseFest this Grandparents Day. With tastings, talks, cooking sessions and picnics (also, alcohol. lots of alcohol), this could be the perfect event for you older grandchildren who want to spend some quality eating time with your grandparents! More information on the CheeseFest website.

Already made plans for Grandparents Day? Let us know what you get up to in the comments below! 

My grandpa was sold as a good luck charm…

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By Owen Chow

My grandpa was sold as a good luck charm.

This was a time when selling children was commonplace in China, and though less common, it still goes on today. He was bought by a superstitious couple that believed if they bought a boy, they would start siring male heirs, because all their children had been daughters. They wanted a breathing good luck charm. My great grandparents were starving, and my granddad remembered his mother’s tear-stained face, and the fight between his parents. He was ten years old. It’s incomprehensible to me still how you could do that to your own child. It was incomprehensible to him. He looked back at those days with a silence and I had nothing to say, because what can you say to that?

He was given a parchment that explained the decision and then was essentially sold into slavery. His mother wrote that she loved him, that they were starving and they had no choice and wished him a good life. He never saw his parents again. My father cremated the parchment with my grandfather when he died, because he believed the parchment was my grandfather’s by right and it should go into the grave with him.

My grandfather was a fishing worker. He learned how to cast lines, how to tie knots and run boats. His foster parents never gave him anything besides necessities. His singlet was more holes than singlet. He was never given treats. He lived penniless among his foster parent’s children. He remembered going ashore after a day of casting lines and watching water, carrying boxes of glassy-eyed fish and the ice cream cart was in town and his brother and sisters of his foster family had money to buy treats and he just stood there, until one of the dock workers took pity on him and gave him some money.

He had a childhood made of work and water and loneliness spent at sea. He wasn’t allowed to go to school because his foster parents wanted him to work. Their daughters and son all received an education. My grandfather worked the nets.

He had an arranged marriage with a girl fishing worker on another ship. Arranged marriages were pretty common back then, and he learned to live with her. He started a family, and they had to lug their children with them to work. He was twenty eight, had four children and he still wasn’t earning a salary. He lived on the boat for most of his life, and he was still owned by his foster family.

World War II hit. My dad was born. Japanese troops occupied Hong Kong, where my grandparents and dad had moved to. One time he forgot to bow to the Japanese troops at a guard outpost and they called him back, but he quickly remembered his manners. The next guy that forgot was beaten until he couldn’t walk. Luck of the draw, I guess.

When he was forced out of home because his foster parents didn’t want to give my grandparents any inheritance he had $5 to his name and they ended up living in a wooden shack by a mountainside. My grandmother’s mother got my grandfather a job as a sailor and he travelled on passenger ships. He eventually visited Sydney and hitchhiking was common because not everyone had a car. This should have been in the 60s. Some Australian sailors taught him some simple English so he could get around.

My grandfather would spent a year overseas and then come back because of his sailing job. He ended up seeing large parts of the world. In Hong Kong my grandmother was raising my dad and his brothers and sisters, until someone who was smoking opium accidentally burned down their house, and the fire spread to all the wooden shacks. My grandmother’s family was forced into government housing, and my grandfather wouldn’t find out until he came back from Canada.

My grandfather wouldn’t gamble when his friends did because he knew his salary was keeping his family alive. My grandfather couldn’t write, so when they tried to promote him he turned it down. He couldn’t even sign his name, he signed documents with an X.

My grandfather brought me up when I lived in Hong Kong. I don’t remember much of it, because I moved to Australia when I was five. My grandparents came to live with us a bit, but eventually they moved back to Asia. They had lived their entire lives in China and Hong Kong, and in the end that was what had shaped them and what they understood.

I won’t pretend to understand them, because I didn’t. Their lives were full of desperate struggle and the monumental events that have formed what happens today. They saw World War II, they saw slavery and destitution and loss and the struggle to build a life out of nothing. But they weren’t unhappy people. Even when my grandfather was sold into another family he just bore it and kept going, and when fires took my grandmother’s house they took government housing smaller than most of your rooms with no toilets or consistent electricity.

They never talked much about the old days, they talked about what we were doing, about what school I was going to, how my parent’s business was going. They looked forward to our visits, and I didn’t, because I’m young and impatient and stupid. Their lives weren’t mine. I could never find that connection, and I never cared because I was still stumbling around looking for lights and sounds and had no time for things I didn’t know about.

And now I’m older, and more thoughtful, I hope. I have been told the story of my grandparents many times. I am consistently reminded by relatives what had to be done, and what happens to us sometimes, that is oft beyond our control. I am reminded of this, but also that despite everything we find the willpower to keep going, to rebuild and fashion something which we may call a life out of rags and hope, because there is no alternative, because we have to. And sometimes we live full momentous lives in our own way, not charged with any real significance, but we do the things required of us despite all obstacles and remain good human beings and raise our children with care regardless of everything. That’s a life well lived I think.

Get Involved

Were you as captivated by this story as we were? For more of Owen’s gripping writing style, make sure to check out his blog! You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter!

And if would like to share a story about your grandparents, please email us therealgrandparents@gmail.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

The Last Time I Saw My Grandmother

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By Kyla Allison

My Grandmothers creased face brightened as my father and I entered her hospital room. We ambled over to her, careful to avoid eye-contact with the woman muttering obscenities in the neighbouring bed. My father sat down by my Grandmothers bed and grasped her hand. I stood near her feet, noting the lack of space at her sides. It was taken by the whirring and blinking machines that were plugged haphazardly in to her frail body. While her eyes lit up, his face became sombre.

“And who is this one!?” She inquired with an air of cheek. The tone she used tried to innocently suggest that I had grown and was now indistinguishable from my elder sisters.

“This is Kyla- my youngest daughter” My father replied. We both knew she needed more information to discern who I was. Neither of us had the heart to admit it.

My Grandmother nodded, trying to appear knowing. Her watery blue eyes surveyed me for a quiet minute. My father grasped her hand tighter.

“Well I am glad you came to visit! It does get lonely here- I can’t wait to get home. Although having lunch here isn’t too bad” she helpfully suggested.

“Oh? You like the hospital food?” My father enquired; genuinely surprised that this stubborn mother of 9 would describe something she didn’t cook herself as ‘good.’

“Oh not at all!” She insisted. My father and I nodded knowingly. “But it’s wonderful eating on the balcony. We are so high up here! In the trees! I sit out in the afternoons with the birds in the trees. The afternoon sunlight and being in the trees with the birds makes it worthwhile.”

My father and I smiled at her. My Grandmother, who detested hospitals, found joy in sitting at tree height with the birds.

“Yeah, but it’s not all bad.” She offered while gesturing at the room around her. “It’s lovely in the afternoons, I sit out on the balcony in the trees with the birds!”

“That does sound lovely” My father said with a heartbroken attempt at a smile.

“Do you know what is lovely? Being up this high with the beautiful little birds. I love being up here with the birds in the afternoon.”

“Are you getting tired? We can come back tomorrow at an earlier time?”

“That would be wonderful. You should come back in the afternoon. Did I tell you? I sit out on the balcony in the afternoons- with the little birds.”

Meet: Bette and Ray

Big thanks to Brooke for sending us this story about her grandparents!

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“After a bad fall down the stairs last year, my grandma was rushed to hospital in an ambulance, for a few weeks we stood vigil by her bedside, we didn’t think she’d make it through. It’s only in moments like these that you truly realise how much that person means to you, how much they’ve done for you, how they’ve helped make you the person you are today.

After just celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary last year, the love my grandparents have for each other has tested the bounds of time; they are true soul mates. Throughout her time in hospital, grandpa doted on her constantly. He visited the hospital twice a day every day for months on end just to be with her.

My grandma lost her mother very young, too young to have been taught how to cook or clean properly and run a household with her older sister when their father was away at war. Because of that, grandpa has always been the one in the relationship that cooks. He makes a mean roast dinner I must say, and he takes pride in growing his own fruit and veges. His garden is his pride an joy, after his wife of course! Whilst pa was out in the garden, grandma would be busy sneaking us chocolates, and I remember her saying “Chocolate is a fruit! It comes from the cacao plant and plants grow fruits so we’re basically eating fruit salad!” Amen girl, amen.

I couldn’t encourage all of you enough to get to know your grandparents before it’s too late, or even take some time out to reflect on the memories you shared with them.

Bette and Ray, you are my inspiration, and I’m so glad to have you as my grandparents.”

Brooke is spreading positivity and kindness over on her blog. Check it out here!

Get Involved

We want to hear about your grandparents! Send us your stories to therealgrandparents@gmail.com

Top 5 Movie Grandparents

A few weeks ago we celebrated the best television grandparents. This time, we looking at our favourite grandparents in film.

5. Grandpa Joe – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

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4. Royal Tenenbaum – The Royal Tenenbaums

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3. Yiayia – My Big Fat Greek Wedding

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2. Grandma Annie – The Proposal 

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1. Queen Clarisse Rendali – The Princess Diaries 

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Did we miss your favourite? Let us know in the comments below!