Listening with Your Heart

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As our parents get older it often becomes harder to communicate with them. My parents are now in their 80’s and both are hard of hearing. When I do go over for a visit I find myself having to repeat myself many times. It can become a little frustrating for all of us. That is just not acceptable in my book.

I’ve had to remind myself that these are the years when they need me most. Getting out and socializing is harder for them now so they rely on me to come over and visit or talk to them on the phone. Both will not even consider a hearing aid so I guess the buck stops with me to try to make things better.

My parents have a cell phone but they heavily rely on their land line. One of the best things I did for them is to get them a really good phone that they can dial up the volume on. It’s actually easier to visit with them on the phone now than it is in person. I never have to repeat myself.

But just talking on the phone is not enough. I need to see them and visually see how they are doing. Without my visits they’d be very isolated and isolation is a very slippery slope for the elderly. It often leads to depression which leads to physical ailments which ends with death!

So instead of trying to do a lot of talking I became convinced that listening more might be a better fit. I thought it might help them which it did, but to my surprise it helped me too. I began to really listen to what they had to say. I know. That’s quite the revelation! The more I listened, the more they began to talk — about important things. It wasn’t just how they were feeling from day to day but they began to share their memories of the best times in their lives. Instead of coming home frustrated, I was coming back happy and with a better understanding of who my parents really are.

Momma tells me lots of stories now about when she was a little girl. I’ve heard how she and her twin sister got chased by a bull and they lost their new hair ribbons. Daddy told me about hunting for raccoons to make a little spending money. He also told me about having to go into a sanatorium when he had tuberculosis. He was only 16 and had to be treated with an iron lung.

I’ve learned my conversations with my parents don’t have to be all about me. I should have many more years to talk, if anyone cares to listen, but I don’t have as long to be able to listen to my parents. They have a lot to teach me. I hope they’ll be around many more years because I have miles to go and I’d rather have their wisdom and experience to take along with me. I’d much rather know all their stories from years gone by. It’s a legacy I don’t want to miss.

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