June 15, 2014, - 4:31 pm

I Wish I’d Done This With My Late Dad; But Maybe You Still Can

By Debbie Schlussel

When my late father was dying of cancer, he kept it a secret from us as long as possible. He said it was because he didn’t want us to mourn him in his last days while he was still alive and wanted to live out his life with us. But I wish I’d done something that USA Today tech columnist Jefferson Graham did do. He videotaped his father in an interview, and now he has that for posterity. He calls it a priceless gift, and he is absolutely right. Even though my dad’s been gone almost seven years, every day I have questions I wish I would have asked him. I wish I’d made a video interview like Graham did, and maybe you still can. Read what he did and what he suggests you do (if you are lucky enough to still have your father around):


On my final Saturday with my dad, we walked for two hours in the Santa Cruz hills. After lunch we returned to the house, where Jerry Graham indulged me by answering questions about his life, on video. Little did either of us realize that he would be dead of a sudden heart attack within 36 hours, that this encounter would be my final chance to learn details of his life that only he could reveal. So as we approach Father’s Day, I urge everyone to sit down with their dads to record and preserve these personal stories for future generations. Before it’s too late.

We live in an era unlike any other in history, where most of us now have a video camera in our pocket — the smartphone. Let’s use the tool to tell and preserve our stories. . . .

My dad had resisted revisiting the past. I had only gotten him to sit for me on video once before, in 2008, but it was brief. But as he entered what we assumed would be his final decade, I figured I would wear him down and get to chronicle his whole life, in chapters, over visits. So on this Saturday afternoon, just three days shy of his 79th birthday, I had my video gear in the trunk, just in case. Surprisingly, there was no struggle to get this video discussion off the ground. . . .

So sons and daughters, talk to your fathers this weekend. Record their stories and learn more about their lives. You’ll be thrilled you took the time, and so will future generations.

Some tips for a video interview of your dad . . .

I so wish I had done this. But it is too late now. I know exactly what I would have asked my dad about. What would you ask your dad on video?

Jefferson Graham has some great suggestions for the interview.

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4 Responses

My father died in 1971, so alas, no video. My mother agreed to be taped in 1995, one year before her death. That video, taped by a borrowed video recorder, is a great treasure.

EDS on June 15, 2014 at 7:54 pm

Debbie I am so thankful for you every day as I read your e-mails and get the truth and facts we get from very few places. Also I read the responses from the worthless jerks like Kay here and admire you even more.Thank you.

Joel C. on June 16, 2014 at 11:05 am

When we come upon Father’s Day each year, I tend to cry when I read your column because your tributes are so touching. 🙂 It especially moves me because my own father passed, far too young, from cancer. Thank you for sharing your story. And, thanks, again, for putting yourself out there to report the truth to us. I am sure your dad felt honored and proud to have such an amazing and accomplished daughter!

Marily on June 16, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Thank you!

Dad (73) is in the first couple of weeks of having been diagnosed with lung cancer–stage IV, as it’s metastasised to his pelvis and lumbar vertebrae. He begins chemo and radiation on Monday.

What a wonderful idea!

G-d Bless you.

Aurora on June 17, 2014 at 9:51 am

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