Asking The Right Questions

Though I haven’t written on my website in over a year, I’ve been writing more than ever. (Take a look over on my Writing page to see what articles I’ve been writing.) I’ve also had the opportunity to work on several really, really cool ghostwriting projects.

In my work with Memory Lane Jane, I take hours of interview with beloved family members and turn it into a full-blown autobiography book. In July 2020, I had the chance to start this type of project with my own grandmother, Margaret Rose Husnian, a woman who grew up in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.

The youngest of five siblings, my grandmother’s family lived off the land—common for the lower income families up in the Henson Cove (the rural area in which she lived). Many of the men in Canton, NC went to work in the paper mill, which my grandmother described as an environment that required workers to leave their values at the door. It was a rough, narrow-minded place.

Margaret married an “otar,” a foreigner. My grandfather was full-blooded, first-generation Armenian-American. His family’s traditions were unlike anything my grandmother had experienced. She became a military wife and raised two daughters overseas in Lebanon and Israel. Her world was split open in the best way, its contents spilling into all corners of her consciousness and flooding her soul with color, spice, and language. I imagine her world as a ball of burrata.

I learned things about my grandmother that I had never known before. I learned things about my grandmother that her own daughters had never known before. When it comes down to it, and when people ask me about what I do, it’s all about asking the right questions. Sometimes, it’s just about asking any question.

I learned that my grandmother loved to date men with boats. Once, when she was water skiing in Del Rio, Texas (where she was stationed in the Air Force with the Medical Corps), her bathing suit top flew off. “My boobs were pretty perky then, though,” she laughed. A very human thing we can all relate to, right? I had only known the woman with deepened laugh lines around her eyes patting biscuits on Saturday morning. I hadn’t known the wild water skier.

It is in our nature to share stories. After all, we want to be fully known to in turn be fully loved. To be fully known, we have to self-disclose. In telling her story, my grandmother expressed that she wanted her grandkids to know that she wasn’t always old and grumpy. True to the way our natures work, Grandma had witnessed her grandkids see her mother, my great-grandmother, as a late-80s-through-mid-90s-year-old woman in a nursing home—not the lively and independent woman who valued her daughters’ education. My Grandma Margaret had known a very different woman. All we see is what’s in front of us unless we ask the right questions.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to know my grandmother better.

I encourage you to ask just one more question.

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