Have you have heard your father repeat stories over and over again? We may think he tells the same story again because he can’t remember he told it before.
But, by retelling personal stories, elders are often, consciously or subconsciously, trying to reframe their life from the perspective of time. If we give them the gift of attentive listening, we may find their stories more interesting and even learn something new about them. Since an elder’s history is part of our own, we might learn something new about ourselves, too. This mutually beneficial activity is the perfect gift for Dads this Father’s Day.
As baby boomers age, there’s been increasing interest in recording their experiences. Their stories of serving in the military, pursuing relationships, beginning careers and raising families during transformative periods in American and global history are precious.
While a formal “interview” approach can be wonderful, most story sharing is simply spontaneous moments of sharing. Ideally, the younger generations could do both: engage in listening to their elders’ stories and record their voices and images as they speak. More important than the method, however, is simply letting your loved ones know you value hearing about their lives.
Many older people tell us that what they enjoy most about life in assisted living and skilled nursing communities is how many of the aides listen to their anecdotes with genuine interest—the same stories their children and grandchildren may have grown tired of. Keep in mind that one’s personal history can become increasingly important as one ages. After all, as life draws to a close, we all want to know that we made a difference. Stories help us add meaning to and make sense of life. To have the rapt attention of a younger person who will listen thoughtfully is comforting for a senior whose sphere of life is slowly shrinking.
Listen to your dad tell his stories if he is able. However you plan to celebrate, take the initiative to make this Father’s Day rewarding for both of you. The gift of caring will most certainly provide you with memories that you will cherish long after he is gone.