The Gem of Real Conversation

Michelle Stimpson & Bill Stimpson & Grandparents

You know how it’s so easy to talk about “surface” issues with people; about the stuff that doesn’t really matter? Well, with my grandparents, Rollie and Doris, it’s the complete opposite. All throughout my life with them, I’ve had the pleasure of going deep and being ‘real’ during every single interaction. What a gift!

And what a thrill it has been for me to include Bill in on this joy and share life together as couples. The four of us have recently developed a little tradition a few nights each winter that we call our “Fireside Chats.” On these nights, Bill and I bring over dinner and enjoy a candlelight meal at the kitchen table with our two favorite elders, discussing the latest and sharing news about what’s happening in our lives.

Then we move downstairs for our ‘chat,’ where my grandpa has a semi-circle of four chairs set up around a roaring fire for us to begin.

Man, these two have the market cornered on sweetness, and if you need any supporting documentation or want to be inspired, just go here!

Master communicators

My grandparents both grew up in Scandinavian homes, where not much was ever shared in the way of emotions, thoughts, or feelings. In their adult lives, though, and through their career—they have become master communicators.

They share their hearts purposefully, and compassionately listen to others in the moment as though there were nothing more important than the person doing the talking. Case in point, the bumper sticker on the back of their car sums up what they wholly value; it says: “Listen to someone today.”

So at our recent get-together, my grandpa shared experiences from World War II and his myriad of feelings being away from his true love (my grandma) back then. We talked about the preciousness of having a mate who is also your lifelong best friend.

My grandparents discussed the reality of aging and what daily life is like for them in their late 80’s. They asked about my business and listened as though it was the most important issue on their agenda. They asked Bill about his dreams and rallied him like a dedicated cheering squad.

Important dialogue and memories

As a retired Psychologist, my grandpa always has a few tricks up his sleeve. He pulled out a stack of “Conversation Cards” as a creative way to spark additional meaningful conversations—this time in the form of memories.

I quietly knew there was another reason why he was doing this, though. My grandma has been experiencing some memory loss, and the focused cards would serve as the perfect catalyst for important memories to flow.

When it was your turn to draw a card, you might see something like: “Tell about a favorite relative when you were young” or “What was your favorite thing about your father when you were a child?” or “Who’s the most famous person you ever met?” Each card would spark memories of a story, always rich with a personal touch.

My grandma absolutely lit up when she talked about a favorite uncle who would take her to the park and play with her as a child. She reminisced about her grandpa’s laugh and her mother’s compassion. She talked about sharing chocolate bars with her dad as though it were yesterday. The memories flowed, my grandma was ‘in the zone,’ and the rest of us in the semi-circle of chairs beamed with love and support, sharing in her memories with her.

My moment to share

The pinnacle of this recent fireside chat was the last question I pulled from the deck. It said: “Who has made a significant impact on your life?” I could barely wait to share my answer with the group! I turned to my grandparents and spoke loudly and clearly so my grandpa could hear every word through his hearing aid and said: “That’s easy. All my 41 years of life, you guys have been my models, my rock.” I continued to tell them how they have shown me the joy of a solid and loving relationship and that soulmates do exist.

Then I turned to Bill and told him how he impacts my life every single day, simply by his greatness in being who he is. Whew! I felt full and complete by making this all-important announcement. While I’ve shared this information many times before, there was something so powerful about having the three of them right there, right in front of the fire with me, on this meaningful night.

Michelle Stimpson & Bill Stimpson & Grandparents

What a reminder to me of the significance of listening. And knowing that whatever it is that the other person is saying…is important. My other reminder was the power of sharing what’s on your heart, with the people you love.

As the evening grew darker and the fire was almost out, my grandpa declared that this would be the last fireside chat of the season (and in Minnesota, that’s a good thing—it means that spring is on the way!). We agreed and joked that the next time we get together will be on their backyard deck, but instead we’ll transition from “Fireside Fodder” to “Deck Dialogue”!

I couldn’t help but think, though, that life is precious, and you never (no, never) know when the last time will be.

When is the last time you truly listened to someone?

What is it that you need to say to someone you love?

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19 Responses to “The Gem of Real Conversation”

  • Faith says:

    Beautiful, Michelle. This made me cry. Tomorrow is my Grandpa Jack’s 85th birthday and I am so aware that our time together is limited. Thank you for sharing your grandparents!

  • Love this…I never knew any of my grandparents so consider yourself blessed. However I sure have enjoyed being a “Nana.” My granddaughter is turning 16, grandson 13 and another grandson 1 yr. I can honestly say they listen to me and I to them at a deep level.

    What I need to say to someone I love? The ancient Hawaiian healing technique.

    I love you.
    I’m sorry.
    Please forgive me.
    Thank you!

  • Renee says:

    Michelle, I love your stories and they always move me. Listening to you speak of your love for your grandparents reminds me of how wonderful mine where when they were here. Quirks aside they had a genuine love for one another for many years. I only wish I could have another chat with them. Some day I will see them again but until then I have cherished memories. Thank you for helping to remind me how much I have to be grateful for!

  • @ Faith: Thanks so much. Yeah, you and I have shared with each other how much grandparents mean to us. So glad that this story touched you. Happy Birthday, Grandpa Jack!

    @ Tess: What a great reminder–yes, I do have to remember how blessed I am and that not everyone has had grandparents to love. What a gift that you get to be “Nana” and share that special bond with the young ones! Regarding your ancient Hawaiian healing technique…guess what? My grandparents spoke at my wedding and gave us almost precisely the same advice: To say “I love you,” “I need you,” and “Please forgive me.” Priceless!

    @ Renee: Thanks so much for the sweet comment. You obviously ‘get’ the preciousness of a relationship with a grandparent…and how nice that you have cherished memories to hold close in your heart. Much to be grateful for!

  • Jackie says:

    I loved reading this and it made me ache for my grandparents. I was lucky enough to have one of my grandmothers until I was 45, but she was lost before that time due to alzheimers. I feel very fortunate to have had them in my life during the celebrations of my life as well as the trials. Thanks for sharing, my heart is warm from your fireside chats.

  • Joan says:

    Brilliant, Michelle! Thanks for letting us all gather around the fire with your amazing grandparents:) It warms my heart!

  • Sharon says:

    ohhhhhhhhh Michelle! This is such a great post….it made me cry…tears of happiness……..and warmth and goosebumps….I can JUST see you four having your “fireside chats”………and how wonderful to be able to express to your Grandpa and Grandma (my unc and aunt!) and to Bill how you feel………..what a gift that is. And, I smiled sooo big when I heard about Unc Liney’s “cards for memories” what a guy he is….I tell ya…….he never stops amazing me……he is soo thoughtful and sweet and caring and loving…….and how you guys rallied about Aunt Dor to tell her memories…….you rock girl…love you! Sharon xoxo

  • Sharon says:

    ps they are so blessed to have you and Bill in their lives, too….You bring so much to them…THANK YOU.

  • Marilyn says:

    Very sweet, Michelle, and a good reminder to me to cherish my father and our time together.

  • Clint says:

    It is so cool how you appreciate what you have, in the now. It is as special as it can be!! Count these Blessings, especially!!

    And thanks for sharing…

  • Ian says:

    Your grandparents are two of the best people I’ve ever met, hands down!

  • Candice says:

    I got all teared up reading this. I love your posts, they strengthen my belief in “the possible”.

  • @ Jackie: I like how you said you were fortunate enough to have your grandparents “during the celebrations of life as well as the trials.” Yeah, that’s certainly “life,” isn’t it–the ups and downs, the joys and the sorrows? But that’s what makes life so rich, and it’s a blessing to share it with others.

    @ Joan: And thank YOU for gathering around the fire with us! So glad to know this one warmed your heart. :)

    @ Sharon: We certainly are blessed to have those two in our lives, huh? Thanks for sharing in the joy of it with me and I’m so happy that we are “family.” Yay!

    @ Marilyn: I’m thinking of you as you spend this special time with your father in CA. What a treat for you two to have each other. Look forward to seeing you when you’re back!

    @ Clint: You are one of my models for appreciating the “now” and you remind me to count and cherish my blessings. I’m so grateful for those reminders!

    @ Ian: I know that you and my grandpa have had such a special relationship through the years, and he thinks the world of you. I always remember him carrying the acorn in his pocket. :)

    @ Candice: Thank you for your loyal readership and for sharing your heartfelt thoughts with me. Wow, I love the idea of the posts strengthening your “belief in the ‘possible'”. Reading those words really made me pause, and you fuel me to keep going. Thank you for that.

  • Cindy says:

    What a GREAT story. You are very fortunate to have such great role models in your Grandparents! Most people don’t even have that with their parents. Thank you so much for sharing.

    You have inspired me to be more thoughtful, more purposeful, and really try to live in the moment. I’m still a huge work in progress but just today I have decided to try and rid myself of all negative things in my life. I’m trying to be positive in all of my interactions and not waste time on “joy zappers”. I agree, life is too short and you don’t know when the last time will be.

  • Jeff says:

    God bless you both for this amazing story. Michelle, your grandparents sound like amazing people which doesn’t surprise me one bit given that they’re Scandinavian! Besides that, it makes sense that they’re both such amazing people because I could see amazing traits in their granddaughter and the man that she chose to marry!

  • Rollie has been my mentor and role model for three decades…and, he still is today. His wholehearted presence is accessible every time I am with him, no exceptions. And he is deeply curious. His authentic curiosity is an essential lesson for all of us to be curious about. How do we stay on our learning edge like Rollie does daily.
    Both Rollie and Doris are iconic models for positive aging. What’s not to emulate and love about two friends who live with wisdon and compassion every day.
    Your story touched me and reminded me to call to set up a ping pong match with the two of them, now!

  • @ Cindy: Thanks! Wow, I’m so humbled to know that I’ve inspired you to be more thoughtful, purposeful, and present. Like you, I’m a work in process (we all are!) and our job is to simply do our best. “Joy zappers” be gone! And let the positivity in. Fantastic plan, Cindy! I’m cheering you on.

    @ Jeff: You are so sweet. Yes, we are so blessed to have them as grandparents. Such a true gift. Thank you for taking the time to soak in their story. :)

    @ Richard: I LOVE how my grandpa has been that special guiding light for you, too, all these years. You two have such a deep connection! You hit it right-on with the phrases “wholehearted presence” and “authentic curiosity.” Yep, that’s him. I smiled about the two of them being “iconic models for positive aging.” Amen! My heart is full knowing of the deep friendship you share with them, and I know that they both adore you. My grandpa always gives me the latest “Richard” updates and is so proud to share with me the great things you are up to. Thank you for loving them the way you do. Warning: Be prepared for a competitive ping pong match; they are GOOD!

  • Jane says:

    These dear people you speak of are my mom and dad. They are as you say Michelle. What a neat tribute! My husband says they are the best in-laws anyone could imagine. :)

    Dad and Mom’s friendship with me has been life-giving. I lucked out bigtime to call them best friends and mom and dad.

  • @ Jane: You certainly did luck out…and so did they to have you as a daughter! I love how you said the friendship has been “life-giving.” What a blessing.

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Michelle Stimpson: Editor/Writer

Michelle Stimpson Hi and thanks for visiting - so glad you're here! This blog is especially for cool people who want to experience joy and live a life of purpose. Welcome!

Here you'll find great stories that will inspire you and remind you that life is good, and there's an abundance of joy all around us. Simply put: When you follow the things in life that make you come alive and bring you joy...the magic begins to unfold.

Start by checking out the "Best Of" page and be sure to consider subscribing above. Thank you and cheers to joy!

Michelle Joy Stimpson
Executive Editor & Writer
Life Coach, LifeShine

Bill Stimpson: Partner-In-Crime

Bill Stimpson Hi! Not only will you see me “show up” in many of Michelle’s stories and posts here, but I also serve as Michelle’s editor, helping her clarify intentions and make her posts shine.

One of the great joys in my life is being involved with this blog! It’s a constant reminder for me to focus on the things that bring me joy. It also feels great to be sharing so many of these joys with you - in hopes that you, too, will find ways to focus on your own joyful experiences.

Here's to an abundance of joy in your life!

Bill Stimpson
Hubby & Associate Editor

The Parent Company

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