A Grandmother, Her Grandson And Fitting In — Together Growing up, Barbara Handelsman often felt out of step with her family. She says she has always been shy and isolated, but with her grandson, Aaron, she says she's free to be herself. "I think we bring out the best in each other," Aaron says.

A Grandmother, Her Grandson And Fitting In — Together

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It is Friday, time for StoryCorps, the project recording conversations between loved ones. Growing up, Barbara Handelsman often felt out of sync with her family, but when she was 80, she visited StoryCorps with someone she's always had a special connection with, her 20-year-old grandson, Aaron.

BARBARA HANDELSMAN: When I was really little I thought my sister always had all the power because she was pudgy and cute, where I had all elbows and knees. I was so shy. I had no idea how to be the popular kid at a party, and so I felt incompetent, when it came to trying to be an A-plus anything.

AARON HANDELSMAN: I never heard you talk about feeling so isolated. I didn't realize that you felt that way so often. I can identify, but I've always had you. There's this big part of my childhood that consists of adventures with you. Do you remember when we had those inflatable kayaks that we took on the Huron River? I think you were 77 and I couldn't wait to go and brag to my friends about how I had such a cool, like, badass grandmother who was kayaking down a river with me.

HANDELSMAN: You know, I have lots of people in my family who think I am OK, but, there's something about me that they would rather fix. But my experience with you is that I'm always perfectly free to be me.

HANDELSMAN: And you introduced me to the freedom to not worry about saying or doing something others would consider to be foolish. I remember we were climbing through the forest, and there's this yellow tape that said: Do Not Enter. You know, the mischievous side of me really wanted to do that, and you came right along with me. That was the first time I'd ever been encouraged by an adult to cross a border. I think we bring out the best in each other in a lot of ways.


HANDELSMAN: I don't know if I've even told you, but I see you as an incredibly interesting person and one of the most admirable people in my life.

HANDELSMAN: I have advice, and my advice is: be yourself. Don't let any adult ever convince you that you should be somebody else. Don't let them try to give you a cheerful personality if that's not who you are. Be who you are.

INSKEEP: Barbara Handelsman with her grandson Aaron at StoryCorps in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She passed away after this interview. Their conversation, like all StoryCorps interviews is at the Library of Congress and you can read this story and more in StoryCorps latest book, "Ties That Bind."


INSKEEP: This is NPR News.

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