Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A welcome gift

The more that I'm around my elderly, widowed mother and elderly, widowed father-in-law, the more I realize how much they value someone giving them some of their time.  I took my father-in-law to buy some new clothes this week for one of the events leading up to his granddaughter's wedding.  Over and over, Ed thanked me for taking the time to do this.  He called later that day to thank me again.  In our conversation that day, he recalled a visit from Kathy Blessing, one of our friends, when he was in an assisted living facility recovering from surgery about five years ago and told me how much he appreciated her taking the time to visit him.  He talked about how much he appreciated old friends in North Carolina  taking the time to call him occasionally.  His memory is quite bad these days.  He couldn't tell you a material gift that you gave him last year, last month, or last week but Ed can vividly recall the gift of time that Kathy gave him five years ago.
My mother doesn't need another item of clothing or gizmo to make her life easier.  She appreciates it when I take her food that I prepared myself but the thing that she values most is someone sharing their time with her.  I think she would go hungry if she could exchange that food for more of my time.  Living alone for the past 16 years, she craves the opportunity to have a conversation with someone.  A phone call is a special treat and a personal visit is more valuable to her than gold.  At 88 years old, she has all the stuff that she'll ever need (and more) but the one thing that she most appreciates in your time.

It's easy to send a gift to someone like my mom or my father-in-law.  It's tougher to give them more of the thing that they value most  . . . my time.  I'll be the first one to confess that I'd rather do yard work for them or cook for them or wash their car than just sit and talk with them.  I've heard all their stories a hundred times before (sometimes more than once in the same conversation) and there are times when I just don't think that I can listen to them again.  But I remember that my time is the one unique gift that they value the most.

How can you and I give more of our time to the older people in our lives?

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