Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Time to ask the right questiions

When I was young the last thing on my mind was to sit down with my parents, aunties, Grandparents and ask them to tell me about their lives.  In my late teens I often stayed with my Nan on my time off from nursing and we giggled our way through the days. Grandad and I had our love of books, birdwatching and nature to keep us talking for hours over a cup of tea in a china tea cup.

We would walk to the shops or library together like the best of pals. Me on the inside of the pavement as he protected me from the road, his brown shopping bag swinging on his arm. But I never once asked him or Nan about the Adult School. 

It was their homes I took myself to when I lay in my hospital bed in 2008, distressed in the darkness, unable to move. I walked my memory through each room recalling the chairs - chairs I now sit on at home, the glass clown by the fire at Nans, the bird paintings at Grandads - paintings which now hang on my walls. I rarely got upstairs as I was always asleep before I reached the bottom rung of the stairs.

Last year it was my late Grandad who silently took me by the hand and led me into the Adult School research I am currently doing. He wanted the story to be told. He wanted me to tell the story.

The interviews I am undertaking with many silver  haired ladies and gents make my heart sing out as I see their smiles, their joy in sharing happy memories with someone who is interested in what they have to say. But in my quest for stories, all too frequently I hear:

I wish I had asked my Mum...

I wish we had sat down and talked....

If only I had taken an interest...

So when I sit shoulder to shoulder with my Mum in The Archives and Heritage Dept of the Birmingham Library; we discover letters to and from my Grandad, minutes of meetings written by my great Grandad; notes about my aunt and uncle. 

I smile when Mum excitedly gasps your Dads name is here I didn't know he was on St Oswalds Camp committee. We find letters, brochures and photos some featuring people I have never known, others were uncles and aunts, Grandads and Grandmas who I never thought to ask...

My brain tumour gave me the gift of Time

Time to ask the right questions of octogenarians who want to tell their stories...

The Midland Adult School Youth Committee 1944 - including my Uncle in the backrow
Photograph courtesy of The Midland Adult School Uncatalogued Archives held in Birmingham Library Archives and Heritage. Photographer unknown

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