A Backseat Biography: Life And Love, As Told From An Applebee's Parking Lot In this week's edition of StoryCorps, Kara Masteller spoke with her grandfather, James Kennicott, in a car in Waterloo, Iowa. His advice to her? "Let's give 'em hell, kiddo."
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A Backseat Biography: Life And Love, As Told From An Applebee's Parking Lot

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A Backseat Biography: Life And Love, As Told From An Applebee's Parking Lot

A Backseat Biography: Life And Love, As Told From An Applebee's Parking Lot

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/456704196/456752074" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's Friday. When we bring you StoryCorps, people sit in recording booths around this country and interview loved ones. And now StoryCorps has created a smartphone app so interviews can be recorded anywhere.

KARA MASTELLER: My name is Kara Masteller, and I interviewed my grandfather in my 1994 Buick.

INSKEEP: Kara and her grandfather, James Kennicott, sat in the parking lot of a mall in Waterloo, Iowa.

MASTELLER: How did you know that Grandma was the one?

JAMES KENNICOTT: Well, she was a good looker.

(LAUGHTER)

MASTELLER: My grandma, everyone referred to her as, like, a spicy meatball. She swore a lot. But she looked so innocent that no one ever expected her to say the things that she said.

Were you nervous to propose to her?

KENNICOTT: No. We had something to say, we said it. Like you.

(LAUGHTER)

MASTELLER: What are keys to a happy marriage?

KENNICOTT: If something happens, just say I'm sorry and get it over with. There's no reason to carry on. I just say, I'm sorry. I love you.

(LAUGHTER)

MASTELLER: I was really surprised by my grandpa saying sorry. I've never heard him say sorry.

How would you like to be remembered?

KENNICOTT: Remembered...

(LAUGHTER)

MASTELLER: Do you want to be remembered as, like, a real tough guy or...

KENNICOTT: I was a pretty soft guy...

MASTELLER: You intimidated me when I was little.

KENNICOTT: I did (laughter)?

MASTELLER: Yeah, you did. Are you happy about the life you've lived?

KENNICOTT: Oh, yeah. It wasn't the easiest life back in them days. Mother died when I was 4, and it was a tough life.

MASTELLER: He tells one story about how he was 8 or 9 and he was ice-skating on the river and he fell through. He didn't have hot water wherever he was living with his dad so he broke into the school and just took a hot shower in the school. I think that says a lot about his childhood, that there was really no one there to help him get out of the water or keep him warm. Last April, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and I'd never heard him say much about it.

What do you think about Alzheimer's?

KENNICOTT: Not much you can do. I even can't remember some names now (laughter) myself. Maybe I have got it. I don't know.

MASTELLER: And when he said I don't know what it would be like to have it, that was difficult for me. So then I had to ask a follow-up just because I thought I was going to cry.

As people age, do you have any advice for them about getting older?

KENNICOTT: It's coming. Don't fight it. Just roll with it. I mean, real life, live it. It's wonderful.

MASTELLER: (Laughter). Thank you, Grandpa.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MASTELLER: After the interview, my grandpa and I talked a lot more. The last thing he said before (laughter) we got out of the car was, let's give 'em hell, kiddo.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Kara Masteller with her grandfather, James Kennicott, on the StoryCorps app. You can be part of history next weekend. Go to npr.org and search Great Listen.

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