While growing up, my father's golf clubs sat in a corner of the garage collecting dust. Outdated fishing equipment had been stored on a basement shelf. I never saw my father use these. In my lifetime he was the dad who built things in his basement woodshop, manicured our suburban lawn, and collected jazz records for his home-built stereo. Later, he became the dad who was ill, the dad who lost a leg, the bedridden dad, and after I turned fifteen, the dad who passed away.
So, as I began to search through ancient photos and newspaper archives finding bowling scores, baseball team stats, images of Dad laughing on a golf course, and tales of the family fishing at a cottage on a lake, I found it fascinating. It was as if my brother (eighteen years my elder) and I had known two different men. In fact, my father had been a purchasing agent for nearly all my brother's adolescent years, while during mine, he became a traveling salesman. Did I really know my father at all? (Right: Monte Turner (my dad), golfing in the backyard as a youth.)
When I met and interviewed author Jeffrey Mason, he expressed his feeling of loss when he realized his father's Alzheimer's had taken away his chance to learn more about his father's life.
Jeffrey Mason: I wanted to know, who was he? I'd become so caught up in my own life, I'd never taken time to really learn about his. Suddenly, I had all these questions about him. I was fortunate that, before he passed, he could answer some, but so many others he did not.
Retired from a career in California state bureaucracy, Jeffrey is now the author of Amazon bestselling "I Want to Hear Your Story" books. I asked him how this had come about.
JM: I was trolling Amazon looking for a few Valentine gifts for my wife, Paula. A cute little couple's book popped up and I thought it would make a perfect add-on gift. I got a little excited thinking about the prospect. Unfortunately, when it arrived, it was just an underwhelming, blank book. I knew I could do it better, so in 2018, I created my own.
Today, Jeffrey has a whole line of very popular books for others to learn the stories of their moms, dads, aunts, uncles, spouses, and more. He said:
JM: I liked the idea of creating an experience. It's not just about collecting facts about a loved one, it's about connecting with them. It's about learning why they are who they are. What food did they cook? Where have they visited? Talk to the people in your life who are still alive and kicking. Get to know them for who they really are.
JM: We've divided ourselves; we see ourselves as different separating ourselves from "us" and "them," and yet, in the most essential and important ways, we are alike. The more we talk to others and learn about their experiences, the more we will see our similarities. Instead of being divided, we can come together.
Speaking to Jeffrey, he continually expressed how grateful he was for all the good in his life and for the opportunities writing these books has given him.
JM: (Jeffrey referred to Steve Jobs' Stanford "connect the dots" "find what you love" speech from 2005.) Looking back, you see how all the things in your life connect. My grandmother was the one with the trunk full of photographs. My mother was a bit of a historian. All these things in our lives lead us to what we are ultimately called to do—if you let them.
As Father's Day nears, it might be the perfect time to really learn about your Father (or Grandfather). Add one of Jeffrey's guided question books to your gift-giving bundle and really take the time to explore the questions together.
Like Jeffrey, I've spent a lot of time collecting the stories of my family. (My book Marvelous Messages from Your Ancestry will be released later this year.) For some of us, it's too late to speak to our loved ones directly, but we can still learn about them from those who remain.
Jeffrey Mason has spent twenty-plus years helping individuals, couples, businesses, and organizations achieve goals, build their relationships, and create positive impacts. He is committed to the belief that opportunity exists for everyone, forgiveness is the gift we give ourselves, and the more we do for each other, the more we do for ourselves. His current focus is writing, publishing, and helping others tell their stories. You can visit his website at www.HearYourStory.com.