iPad for Dad, #18: Discovered Stories from My Family’s Past

Mom and Dad about a year after this story on the steps of Dad’s church in Union City, New Jersey,

Those of you who have read even a few of the posts here at As Our Parents Age know of my ongoing series, iPad for Dad (read the first in the series). A little over a year ago, I splurged and bought my Dad an iPad for his 87th birthday. My goal was to encourage him to write and more specifically, share his writing with me and other family members. A committed journal writer, Dad’s diaries fill many shelves, spiral notebook after spiral notebook, pages covered with handwritten entries dating back to 1947.

The iPad has encouraged hours and hours of journal writing, pieces that can easily be sent around to family members — all he has to do it hit the  picture of the envelope and his thoughts are on their way to me or to a friend, to his granddaughter, Rachel, or his niece, Sandy. To be exact, 214 journal entries have been e-mailed to me over the past year, and at least every other one includes something new (to me) about his life or our family. Who knew?

What I do know, however, is that iPad is a gift that keeps on giving back to me, as Dad writes and remembers and writes some more. And his ideas, insights and stories about our family keep on coming.

Your parent can do this too, whether with an iPad or with a digital recorder. And other memory preservation options are available such as Life Echoes, a company that provides the whole package, but setting families up with recorders and then transcribing, scanning pictures, and publishing personalized family   history books.  The important thing is to know that all of our parents and elders, even when they grow increasingly fragile, carry around stories and family memories that we want to know and preserve.

Learn more about Reinhold Niebuhr at the NPR program On Being.

Below are excerpts from today’s post in which Dad describes his encounter as a young minister with the distinguished theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr. I did not know the whole story until today.

My senior pastor at Summit First Baptist Church, David Barnwell, was Alumni President of Union Theological Seminary; and in that capacity, he was able to invite Dr. Niebuhr  [the seminary president] to give a lecture at Summit, New Jersey … Summit’s Athenaeum [lecture series] was an opportunity to listen to lectures of well-known persons from the cultural center – New York City, and specifically, the Morningside Heights – home to Columbia University, International House, The Jewish Theological Seminary and, of course, Union Seminary where Dr. Niebuhr taught.

It had been arranged that Dr. Niebuhr would be driven from his apartment in Morningside Heights to Summit’s high school assembly hall, 25 miles distant; and then home again after lingering at a reception; but the driver for the occasion became ill, and my mentor, Rev.David Barnwell, appealed to me. I had taken many trips east into the Lincoln Tunnel and into the city; but I had a 1936 Dodge and wasn’t sure of its idiosyncratic performance.

Nevertheless, after the lecture, I was pressed into service and I had a most wonderful time – driving across the Secaucus meadow into the tunnel, north to Morningside Heights – two hours with Reinie – talking about the new stress upon an Orthodox Christianity to reform the Social Gospel Christianity that brought about so many reforms, but seemed to lag with the fearful experiences of WW II — of Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki – and of the courageous experiment called United Nations. We chatted about Adlai Stevenson, soon to be a presidential candidate. All this in two hours across the Secaucus flats…

This was 1948. I never dreamed that in 1978 I would be curator of the Niebuhr Exhibit at the Lincoln College McKinstry Library in Illinois, and that I would discover that Adlai Stevenson and Niebuhr exchanged many letters in earlier years.

If you enjoy this post you may also enjoy my post, Aging Parents-Untold Stories: Grandma, Why Didn’t You Tell Me?!

If you like this post, read some of the other descriptions of our Father/Daughter iPad for Dad adventures – iPad for Dad, #1iPad for Dad, #2iPad for Dad, #3,  iPad for Dad, #4iPad for Dad, #5iPad for Dad, #6,  iPad for Dad, #7iPad for Dad, #8,  iPad for Dad, #9iPad for Dad, #10iPad for Dad, #11iPad for Dad, #12iPad for Dad, #13,  iPad for Dad, #14,  iPad for Dad, #15iPad for Dad, #16,  iPad for Dad, #17 , iPad for Dad, #18,  iPad for Dad, #19iPad for Dad, #20iPad for Dad, #21 and iPad for Dad, # 22.

9 thoughts on “iPad for Dad, #18: Discovered Stories from My Family’s Past

  1. The idea of using modern technology to gather and print family stories and pictures is excellent, and easily implementable. We do it at Life Echoes (www.lifeechoes.net). Regardless of the age of physical condition, if the people who participate have their wits about them and can simply talk, we have a process to make a family legacy book which can be passed from one generation to another without limit.


  2. Pingback: iPad for Dad, #16 – Maps « As Our Parents Age

  3. Pingback: iPad for Dad #13, Keyboard Update – Next Step Printing « As Our Parents Age

  4. Pingback: iPad for Dad, #11 – Dictionary.com « As Our Parents Age

  5. What a great idea! And it’s so nice to hear that your dad is using his iPad to share his stories—214 entries! That’s fantastic! Most families struggle to collect those old stories and write them down or type them up, so your dad is definitely putting you ahead of the crowd.

    Maybe Dad needs his own blog now. 🙂


  6. This is such a great idea, Marti. Does your father type directly on the screen or do you use a separate keyboard?

    Following up on Melanie’s comment, I wonder if people who aren’t as committed writers would be interested in using something like Tumblr where they could just post a picture and a short comment? I think that’d be so much fun to read!


  7. My dad was looking at my mom’s iPad and discovered an app called ‘Battleship.’ Now he can’t stop playing it. To make it even worse, he puts the sound on full blast and always screams and cheers when he wins. If he loses he gets really touchy and keeps on re-playing until he wins. I feel bad for my mom though because he is hogging up the iPad and she does a lot of her banking, Facebook, and internet on there. My dad stays up until like, 3:00 in the morning playing that game. It’s kinda driving me insane. I have told him to stop but he just tells me to go away. Later, I ask him to at least put the sound down and he got really angry and he started telling me that he is the boss of me and that I need to listen to him. It’s kinda driving me insane. Can somebody help me in ANY way??
    All help is appreciated!!


    • Gee, my inclination, if you dad is in love with your mom’s iPad so much, is to consider three things. First figure out a way to get him his very own iPad. Second, get him a pair of good quality headphones that have sound control. Lastly, perhaps you can show him some other games or what Steve Jobs’ used to call “insanely great apps,” including some new games.

      However, the truth is that adult children cannot run their parents’ lives, only mediate, even if we hate what they are doing. In terms of his staying up late and not sleeping, perhaps your mom can enlist one of your parents’ physicians to discuss sleep and point out how too little of it can unpleasantly complicate many of the chronic diseases.


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