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!
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.
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?