“Are you going to write about this?”
I have spent a decent amount of time with my grandmother in the past month, and on my last visit, she asked me this question more than once: “Are you going to write about this?” Although I’m not sure why she asked the question, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. And since she asked, I figured I would…
I’ve written about her before — a strong woman who raised six children in a modest house on a modest farm. She’s one of my favorite people on the planet, yet in so many ways, we are so incredibly different. She understands hard work in a way that I never will, and she has a quiet grace about her that I can’t even begin to reach. My stories of her from childhood involve Hardee’s biscuits, breaking beans on the front porch, and a two-week trip across the country. She is fried chicken and gravy, a bountiful garden, a big bowl of popcorn, and a game of cards.
In the last few years, I’ve come to realize how precious time is with her.
I have started to be more intentional in my conversation because I know one day I won’t be able to have those conversations with her anymore. She is always just fine to talk about the weather or what my boys have been doing, but those conversations are often shallow. I want to know more about her.
I recently spent 30 minutes talking to her about gravy. I didn’t know it was possible to talk about gravy for that long. Gravy is holy ground for her. As far as I’m concerned, hers is the best, and you won’t convince me otherwise. When I asked her how to make it, she gave me specific instructions: how to make it, how to thin and thicken it, what kinds of meat you can use, etc. I now know more about gravy than I remember from any Chemistry class I ever took.
I know that my dad was well-behaved as a child. I’m a little disappointed because I had really hoped there would be some good stories about his mischievousness, but it turns out, he really was just a good kid.
I know that her modest house started out really, really small. My grandfather would add a room as he had the money and time to devote to it. She told me he would start out with a little bit of lumber and a box of nails. Over time, that small four-room house slowly grew as it continued to burst at the seams with children.
I learned all of this because I got her talking about something other than the weather. I got her talking and she just kept sharing stories with me. And then I just listened. I listened to her talk about the first time she milked a cow, the first big meal she fixed for company as a married woman, and how she and her mom both fixed gravy because it was filling and cheap. She has 90 years worth of memories, wisdom, and fight in her, and it’s my goal to soak up as much of it as possible.
Our stories are important.
When we think about the people we hold dear, we don’t give a list or bullet points about who they are. We aren’t a resume of accomplishments. We share stories because stories are important. Stories explain and stories enrich. Stories are memories and teachable moments.
Today is my son’s 8th birthday, and we spend time every year telling him about himself: his birth story, his first words, and our favorite memories of him. We tell him that we hoped he wouldn’t be born on Halloween, we tell him how he was in no hurry to get here, and we tell him about how he looked like an old man when all of his hair fell out when he was a baby. We do our best to do that often and not just around his birthday. We tell him because he is important, and his story is important in this world. Everyone’s is; no matter whether it’s 90 years long or eight years short. My story is different because of him and my story is different because of my grandmother.