It's hard to see our marriage objectively, especially when we've been married for so long and our memories become more selective. Thanks to our granddaughter, Sheridan, we are finding new ways to appreciate our history together.
Sheridan is eight years old and extremely interested in learning her family history. She doesn't live in the same town, so when we are together, she is super-glued to one or both of us. And the questions flow:
"Nana/Papa, what's the worst thing you ever did that got you in the most trouble?"
"Nana/Papa, how did you fall in love?"
"Nana/Papa, what's the next worst thing you ever did that got you into trouble?"
" Nana, what are these?" (points to my "bat wings"---the drooping flesh underneath my arms)
"Nana/Papa, what's the next, next worst thing you ever did that got you into trouble?"
"Nana, why do you have a moustache?"
I'm sure you can see the theme that develops as she works her way through finding out about the times we "messed up" and what happened to us. This is part of her character development as she sorts through our lives to find out what we did that was right and wrong. The wrong is such a better story! And I find I listen just as hard as Sheridan to what Dennis has to say in case I learn something about him that I didn't know before.
That's why I appreciate Sheridan's questions. Our Customer Metaphor tells us to pay attention to one another and appreciate each other, but how often do we really question one another and listen raptly to the other about their lives? How often to we vary the questions? Most often we share this information when we meet someone new, but it seldom gets to the level of intimacy that we share with our granddaughter.
The fact that we survived all the "bad" things we did and are still worthwhile people who are loved and loving helps her understand what unconditional love is. "I may not like what you did, but I love you." How often do we offer this same consideration to one another? How often do we let little things go in favor of the bigger picture of how much we love and appreciate one another?
There is a book I treasure and highly recommend: To Our Children's Children, Preserving Family Histories for Generations to Come by Bob Greene and D. G. Fulford. It's a book of questions; it helps us get to know one another better within our families. The questions are organized into 30 categories such as Childhood, High School, Food, The House You Were Raised In, Politics and History, Entertainment, Romance and Relationships and Moods, Attitudes and Philosophies. There are great starters for couple and family conversations that allow us to get past the recital of everyday events and into the hearts and minds of those we love. Here is a sample of the questions in the book:
- Do you like your birthday or do you dread it? What birthday do you remember the most from your youth? What kind of parties did your parents give for you?
- What was it like the day you moved into a new house? What was it like the day you moved out?
- What was the most delicious meal you've ever had?
- What have been your causes over the years? How have you worked for them?
- What do you do in the first hour after you wake up each morning?
With all the emphasis on social networking and connections, it seems like a good time to bring the past into the present and talk with one another about our memories, our hopes, our histories and our dreams.