Grandparents matter. Here’s how.

Grandparents matter in profound, enduring, and sometimes unexpected ways.

That’s what I learned from these recordings, which were made by three American families for the oral history project StoryCorps.

AT THE ROOT OF IT ALL, A LITTLE GIRL’S ‘GRANDMAPAL’ LEFT HER LIFELONG LOVE

Chloe Longfellow spent long hours in the kitchen with her grandma after her father died when she was little. Photo from StoryCorps.

“It’s really surprising, the amount of life lessons you can learn in a kitchen if you have the right teacher,” says Chloe Longfellow, 32, who spent a lot of time cooking with her grandma after her father died when she was little.

“She used to try to tell me about acceptance and how to be a good human being. She’d get all the ingredients for a soup, and she’d look at it and she’d go, ‘Now, see honey, this is how the world works. Some people are onions, some people are potatoes. It’d be a really boring soup if you just put potatoes in there, wouldn’t it? But if you add leeks, if you some bacon, then you make this wonderful thing.”

“And all these different people come together to make this wonderful thing called our world.”

Broadcast on NPR on December 11, 2015

AFTER A BREAKDOWN, A SECRET BREAKS FREE FROM A FAMILY’S CLOSET—AND HEALS

Andrea Crook, right, with her mother. When Crook suffered a psychotic break, her grandfather revealed that he, too, had a mental illness. Photo from StoryCorps.

When Andrea Crook lost her grip on reality, she refused medication for weeks.

Then her grandfather told her his secret.

Broadcast on NPR on October 9, 2015

GRANDPA THE GARDENER HELPED NURTURE HIS SEEDLING GRANDSON

Santiago Arredondo, a landscape supervisor at the University of Southern California, with his wife. Photo from StoryCorps.

“As a kid, on top of me being overweight, I also stuttered,” says 32-year-old Santiago Arredondo, a landscape supervisor at the University of Southern California.

“And it was a lot of bullying. So my grandfather stepped in.”

“Every Saturday morning he picked me up at 7 a.m. and we would go to his gardening route. We would spend our days mowing, pulling weeds, and blowing leaves. He started teaching me specialized things—how to prune roses and plant them and create new roses. That helped me develop more self-confidence because I knew how to do something that not everyone does.” 

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“And I think that helped guide me to where I am now.”

Broadcast on NPR on May 15, 2015