Passing Down the Past

Menomonie authors’ new book encourages passing down family stories

Lindsey Quinnies, photos by Tim Mather

Menomonie authors Korinn Hawkins and Dick Edwards created the workbook My Grandparent as a way for seniors to connect with their grandchildren, and vice versa.
Menomonie authors Korinn Hawkins and Dick Edwards created the workbook My Grandparent as a way for seniors to connect with their grandchildren, and vice versa.

At 9pm on a Sunday, Dick Edwards received a call from his grandson in Iowa. He had a report due the next morning and one request for his grandpa: “Tell me about your life.” The sudden, open-ended question with a million possible answers left Edwards understandably flustered. It was this, and other, experiences that first inspired the idea for an interactive journal with a goal to capture and carry on family history.

Dick Edwards’ and Korinn Hawkins’ new book, My Grandparent: A Life & Times Journal for Grandchildren of All Ages is a tool and resource for grandparents and grandchildren to begin a series of conversations over time to gather and document family history. Edwards, a retired Mayo Clinic eldercare specialist born and raised in Minnesota, and his wife retired on Lake Tainter in Menomonie because of their unparalleled love for the people and culture in the Chippewa Valley. He has published one other book before titled Mom, Dad...Can We Talk? Insight and Perspectives to Help Us Do What’s Best for Our Aging Parents in 2009, which was less literally interactive than his new book, but still a conversation starter. It touched on the issues and concerns of children and aging parents. He draws inspiration from his high regard for people in caring professions, his own experiences, and mostly his wife. Korinn Hawkins, an author and illustrator of several children’s books, such as Our Home, The Earth and Oh Eggs! teamed up with Edwards on a random encounter during a car sale. Their interaction was unintentional originally but they hit it off in their collaboration. Hawkins is credited with bringing elements to the table that her partner admittedly couldn’t, such as a tech savvy outlook and a certain attention to detail.

The purpose of My Grandparent is really to inspire a process. According to Edwards, that process strengthens family relationships and the product of that development is a family heirloom. In his own words, “The book fosters quality time together while capturing memories, values and life lessons…the result is a written account of the grandparent’s life.” He also adds that the usual conversation between grandparents and grandchildren doesn’t always fall into the category of family history and often doesn’t get appropriately recorded, but this book can get the ball rolling and nurture the bond between family members. Even though you may know where your family came from or the generic story you learn as you go, it isn’t often you get to hear the little, interesting details that you really relate to or find unique and fascinating. For instance, that your grandma broke a track record in high school or where your grandparents went on their first date. If you don’t record those details when the opportunity is available, they cannot be recaptured.

My Grandparent also allows the sometimes irregular visits between grandparents and grandchildren to be truly significant, using this publication as a guide to stimulate dialogue and memories. With every family’s unique circumstances, the books flexible setup makes it easy to engage and participate. The mood is “relational and conversational” as opposed to “authoritative and didactic,” leaving readers with a relaxed tone and more dynamic aspect that readily invites the process. The book asks expected questions such as “Tell me about a challenging time in your life and how you got through it” and unexpected questions such as “What three words best describe you as a kid growing up?” and “Describe your perfect day.” Although Edwards suggests the biggest challenge was finding a good balance between factual, easy-to-answer questions and questions that probed deeper into emotion, they seems to have struck just the right balance.

When all is said and done, everyone has a family history worth remembering. Some of the greatest links to your past are simply accessible and most likely willing to share. In the words of Edwards, “There’s no room for regrets. Start now.”

My Grandparent: A Life & Times Journal for Grandchildren of All Ages can be purchased on Amazon, at local Menomonie booksellers, and at The Local Store, 205 N. Dewey St.

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