Sometimes Just Listening Is The Best

First of all, I’m a talker. I tell stories and jokes, keep the conversation going, ask questions and make comments. I’m good at small talk and making strangers feel welcome. At a restaurant, I can get the waiter’s/waitress’ complete history by the time our meal is served.

I’m not usually comfortable with silence in the room. I love the sound of talking, laughing and conversation.

But sometimes . . . . .

As the other day when I just happened to be standing with a friend at church. I asked her how she was.

(Now let me pause here and give you some good Granny advice. Never and I mean NEVER ask anyone how they are unless you are prepared to hear the answer. The whole answer!)

She proceeded to tell me how things were not going well, how the doctors were not able to give her answers, how frightened she was, how out of control she felt.

Believe me when I tell you, I had no jokes, no stories, no small talk, no witty words to make her feel better. I stood there silent, holding her hand and listened until she had no more words.

She thanked me profusely for hearing her. We hugged and cried. Then she said, “You are the only one who understands.”

Truthfully, I didn’t understand anything, except I could identify with her feelings. I had said nothing of any profound use, offered no advice, didn’t even say I understood.

I simply looked into her eyes for what seemed like hours and listened to her story of pain. It doesn’t seem like much, until no one does it. Then the lack of it can be it’s own kind of death.

She and I aren’t even the closest of friends. We see each other at church and church functions and are friendly.

How this all happened this one particular time, this one particular moment and place is a mystery. Or is it?

She was ready and I was ready. One to talk and one to listen.

And you know what? I’m as grateful as she is!!!!

The Golden Girls Had A Good Idea

I know I’m showing my age here but “The Golden Girls” was a sitcom back in the late 1980’s. It featured four previously married elderly women living together to share expenses.

But as we saw the relationships develop, they shared more than expenses. The four women supported each other during good times and hard, they encouraged growth and bravery, they challenged bad behavior and forgave mistakes. In other words, they became true, close, devoted friends for life.

They lived full rich lives because they had each other in their lives, not in spite of having each other in their lives.

The presence of girlfriends in a woman’s life is almost essential. Especially during those years when we live alone.

Let’s face it. Statistically we will outlive our husbands/boyfriends or we will be divorced. We will more than likely live our senior years as a single. And we will need our women friends more than ever.

It would behoove all of us to develop those relationships earlier in life and have good strong friends already in place as we age. I know I depend on my gal peeps now.

We share our love of quilting, embroidery, applique and of course, lunch. We trade secrets, jokes, recipes and patterns. We visit sick sisters, go on road trips, get matching T-shirts and of course, do lunch. We sew together, retreat together, watch movies together, take classes together and of course, lunch together.

I couldn’t survive without my besties now, much less in my later years.

Definitely, the Golden Girls had a great idea.

Learn from it!!!!

Aunt Ellen’s Legacy

Our sweet Aunt Ellen passed away last year at the grand age of 97. Because of the pandemic, we could not have a funeral for the whole family. So this year, the family had a memorial service at the church she helped found in Tennessee.

The service was lovely. We sang Aunt Ellen’s favorite hymns, read her chosen Scriptures and heard great stories of moments in her life. We met friends and heard new stories never told before.

We saw the columbarium where Aunt Ellen had been interred next to Uncle Gene. It all came full circle. Complete.

But at the reception, where four generations were gathered, I began to see the real legacy of Aunt Ellen.It was children living out the ethics, strength and humor of a dramatic mother who made a difference. It was grandchildren mirroring the teachings and remembering camping and paying cards with a very involved grandmother. It was great grandchildren running around the restaurant, playing with cousins they hadn’t seen in a long time, and hearing stories about a great grandmother they knew but maybe not very well. It was nieces and nephews making plans with cousins to keep newly revised relationships alive and well.

Family — that was the real story of Aunt Ellen. The story told over years and generations with ups and downs, laughs and cries, rain and sunshine, as all stories are.

The story was visible in one room but could not be contained in one lifetime. A legacy is very complicated and takes time. It takes commitment, love, planning and a lot of joy.

I think Aunt Ellen did a good job. Looking around at her legacy, I could see evidence of her love, commitment, humor and ethics. I saw good people laughing, telling stories, making new memories, making plans, developing their own legacies.

Aunt Ellen would be proud.

I think Aunt Ellen did a good job. Looking around at her legacy, I could see evidence of her love, commitment, humor and ethics. I saw good people laughing, telling stories, making new memories, making plans, developing their own legacies.

Aunt Ellen would be proud.

comcomplicated and takes time. It takes commitment, love, planning and a lot of joy.

Life Lessons From Children

The older I get, the more I realize that children have some of the best answers to the basic questions of life.  They seem to instinctively know how to manage the twists and turns of everyday living.

With all my education, experience and wisdom, I have learned to look to a five-year-old for some of the wisest lessons in getting through life.

Here are my top ten favorites:

Play is the best medicine.  Children have the ability to play with anything, anytime.  It’s how they release their emotions and feelings.  It’s also how they heal themselves.

Take a nap when you’re tired.  Children can sleep anywhere, when they need to.  What a great gift is that!

Always greet your elders with a hug and a kiss.  This is good advice your whole life – no matter how old you are.  Grannies always love to be greeted this way.

Every day is a fresh start.  No matter what happens today, no matter how bad it is or who hurts them, tomorrow is always a new day to a child.  All is forgotten and everything is possible again.  Each morning is a clean slate.

Be courageous.  Sing out loud.  Dance to the music.  Children are not confined by fear of failure or shame.  They embrace life.

Laugh every day.  Children see silliness everywhere.  Look for the humor in your everyday life.

Be active.  Get up and move.   Go outside. Find something to do.  Contact a friend. Children rarely sit in a rocking chair staring into space, thinking about the past.

Scars are badges of honor.  Scars are sources of pride to children, not signs of weakness.  Be proud of your scars.  Tell the story.   Make yourself the hero.  Pass on the wisdom.

Try new things.   Children do not fear the unknown.  They will try a new game, dive into a pool or jump on a trampoline.  Be adventurous.  Get out of your comfort zone.  Step into the unknown.

Notice the little things.  Children can be fascinated by the smallest of things – ants crossing a sidewalk, the tiny feet of birds, the wings of a bumblebee.  The things we take for granted bring them great joy.  Take notice of all the small miracles around you, and see how much more beautiful your life will be.

Becoming more childlike is one of the wisest things we can do as we age.

Family

The one thing I always wanted was family.  I loved the thought of having many cousins, aunts and uncles.  I always wanted a sister.  I thrived on large family gatherings.

Having said all that, family is the one thing I was never blessed with.  I don’t relate to either of my brothers.  One just doesn’t respond in any way.  The other was in the prison system most of his adult life and died early.

My mother died at age fifty and none of her family has spoken to us since then.  My dad’s family has never related to us in all these years.  I have cousins I have never met, seen or talked to.

Because Gramps is a genealogist, I know more about my distant relatives than I do about relatives my own age.  It broke my heart as a child.  Wanting what I couldn’t have and having no way to fix it.  I had no power to get the family I wanted, when I was young.

When I got married and had children, I thought now I had the family I was looking for.  I had a devoted husband and two children.

Except now our son is not speaking to us.  Our daughter and her family live nearby but we only see them about once a month.  But lucky me, I have our niece who has become our daughter and her five children, who have become our grandchildren.  We see them a couple times a year and those times are so special.

Still there are no large family gatherings.  No extended family to relate to.

So I have devised my own way to have a family.  I have friends that care about me the way a relation would.  Some of these friends have been in my life for many years and some are recent acquaintances.  But all of them fill a hole in my heart and my life.

My friends share my love of sewing and quilting.  We love to sit together with fabric, needle and thread in our hands, sharing our thoughts about everything.  We care for each other in good times and difficult times.

My friends call me.  They check-up on me.  They ask me if I’m okay.  I do the same for them.

My friends invite me for dinner and holidays.  We have lunch together.  We share potlucks and buffets.

My friends share my good news and are happy for me.  They hold my hand and cry with me if the news is bad.  My friends do not abandon me – ever.

My friends are my family.   My lifetime wish has been fulfilled.  I have many sisters now.  I have gatherings large and small.  I have the equivalent of dozens of cousins.

The one thing I always wanted, I now have to my heart’s content.  I couldn’t be happier.

How I Learned To Drive

When I was the appropriate age, about fifteen, I took the regular Driver’s Ed. class in school. It was regular then, not so much now.   But it was all book learning – no actual behind-the-wheel training.

So my dad took on the job of teaching me to drive.  I thought it would take a day or two for me to become a good driver.  Boy, was I in for a surprise!  To begin with, I learned to drive on a four-speed stick-shift – not easy.

First he took me to an abandoned shopping center parking lot to teach me to park.  Yes, the dreaded parallel parking!  He would stand at the end of one space, pretending to be the back end of a car.  I was then to park behind him – without hitting him!

Oh mercy sakes!  Figure out how to parallel park or kill your father!  And he never budged one inch – ever!

Then we would drive home on the freeway – of all things!  Believe me, I was thrown in the deep end of the driving pool.

But I did pretty good, until the day he had me drive all the way into the driveway.  Evidently I was getting too close to the garage door and he yelled, “Stop!!!!!!”  He startled me so badly I pressed on the gas instead of the brake.  We went through the garage door, damaged the brick surround, which fell on the washer and dryer, and the car, damaging all of them.

Sitting in the car with a garage door and bricks on top of me, I was in tears.  I cried, “I don’t believe this!”  “Oh, believe it!” he said in a very flat tone.

During the reconstruction of the garage, my friends asked what kind of renovation were we doing at our house.  I was too ashamed to say I had driven through the garage door.

I did get better and eventually was able to drive all the way home and park the car in the garage with no harm to house or car.

My dad was a good teacher and taught me everything I needed to know to take my driver’s test.  On the day of the test, the gentleman said my parallel parking was great and my freeway driving was very good.

The one thing I didn’t know and Daddy failed to tell me – don’t stop in a crosswalk.  Oops!

But I passed my test with flying colors and never ran into a garage door again.