My husbands great grandfather is truly a remarkable guy. He lives a 12 hour drive from us. Try doing that with 4 kids, youngest being 8 months! Felt like it went on forever. And then, we couldn't stay long. I thought I had to work the following Monday morning (turns out, my shift was canceled and I wasn't told). So we stayed the night Friday night, visited all day Saturday, had breakfast with him Sunday morning, and drove madly back to Texas right after. As my husbands Nana so accurately put it, "a whirlwind visit" was exactly what it was. But in those hours with him, we learned so much of his life. We saw his enthusiastic attitude light up the atmosphere. It was such a joy being there with him.
I think todays generation, the millennials, has lost the ability to see past what is commonly referred to as senility to see the person beneath. Those wrinkles cover years of hard work. Those tired eyes have seen more than we can imagine. Those shaky hands have handled far more than any of our generation could possibly think to do. They are full of stories. Wonderful, daring, and exciting tales. Sometimes, we need only listen. The stories they tell us are often full of wisdom. Wisdom that will be lost once they pass on.
Our trip gave us insight to a man who has had two careers; one in the military and one for the police department. Both were intertwined over the years. Both had him meeting famous people. Both had him doing things that tested his abilities and rewarded his efforts. I could listen to him for hours on end. Just as I did with my Nana.
Maybe its because I love history. Maybe because I want to further my self-growth by drawing from the aged. But I also know that just as I am gleaning from them, they are fulfilling a need of their own. You see, so many times the elderly are set in the corner of life. They get lonely. Feel forgotten. Feel as though no one truly cares anymore. They need to be reminded that they are still a necessary part of our society. That they are still contributing. There is more to them than what they have to leave their kinsmen at death. They need to be reminded they are loved.
So I end with this. I implore you to take a few moments and genuinely listen. Interact with them. And grow.