The Power of Starting: Just Start – Listen – See Where the Conversation Leads You Both…

Here is a note from my friend Randy. It illustrates clearly how important and easy it is to get conversations with our loved ones started. This is the “Now” in Healing Conversations Now. Sometimes I think we believe we need to have all the answers before we begin; this holds us back. Often, simply starting the conversation will lead to unexpected discoveries. Randy’s story is also a good reminder that even when physical health is not the issue, engaging with our loved ones while they are still able to have the conversation is important. Our memories fade, distance separates us, and daily life consumes our focus. It is important to grab the opportunity when we have the chance – even if it’s not as easy as it was for Randy.

Note from Randy:  Tony, I’ve been meaning to read your book; being in healthcare, it does interest me how families communicate, say their goodbyes, and share their stories. I think about my grandmother…she isn’t sick, isn’t dying, and is in decent health at 77 years old. Her short-term memory (current events) is horrible, but her childhood memories are clear and on point.

I wanted to know more about her, our family, where our family comes from, how did we come “to be.” I started the conversation simply by saying, “Gram, how was it growing up?” From there it just took off! She talked about her parents, my great grandparents, and how they both were sent over by their parents from Ireland during the potato famine. My great Grandfather landed in Canada; my great Grandmother landed in NYC. They met while both worked at a hospital.   My grandmother talked about growing up Catholic (very Catholic).  She told me she had two best friends (who were sisters), and they still to this day talk every week. They called themselves the Three Musketeers. She said they would go out every weekend to Orchard Beach to pick up boys. I laughed because she is soooooo Catholic, but “It was to just talk with them,” she said. She pulled out old photo books from when she was a baby, her childhood, her high school days; she showed me her old friends and the boys they used to “pick up,” and how they would choose between them. She liked the James Dean look.   She LOVED to go dancing, and this is how she met my grandfather. They were at a “club” in the Bronx, he was in his Navy uniform. She even saved the admission ticket into the club ($.14 to get in). She wrote, “Ann & Dutchy” on it (Dutchy was my grandfather’s nickname). She saved newspaper clippings, old Yankee tickets, Giants tickets, ice cream shop coupons…she had tons of them, so I asked her, “Gram, what made you keep and collect all these things?” Her response made me tear up. She said, “These are all the things that made me happy. These are my memories.

We really had the greatest childhood growing up.” She meant her generation; they didn’t have a dime to their names, but it was the small things that kept them going, the happy moments that kept their lives in perspective.   Then we got into how it was moving all the time because my grandfather was in the Navy. They lived all up and down the East coast, finally retiring and settling down in Rhode Island. She told me about my dad, and how he was growing up, and my three aunts, and my uncle. I think she enjoyed just reliving her memories. The joy on her face, and the reactions when a memory popped into her head – priceless. We stayed up until about 10:30 pm talking – mostly her talking; I was content just listening.

It makes me want to take a step back and really take in everything that occurs in my life, soak it in, so that I can remember the good times growing up and the good times with my children. I would suggest to anyone, anyone interested in the past and how good it really was, go to a nursing home and just talk with the residents. They LOVE to talk and tell stories about how it used to be.

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