I love hearing an old person talk. I love the wavery, quavery, whispery quality of an elder’s speech. I love the direct, no-nonsense approach of so many of them. Like, time is short so let’s get to the point! I appreciate the wisdom of their years. I enjoy the back in the day stories they tell.
I remember conversations with my grandmother in her nursing home, me on the edge of the bed trying to keep track of two busy little boys. She in her big chair by the window, her mighty geranium plant on the table beside her overshadowing the room.
How many blooms does it have this week, Grandma?
She loved to drag out her old, bursting-at-the-seams photo album. She would page through it while we talked, sharing bits and pieces of the past. She told me about her Ma, and the old farm. About the way things used to be and about the way things had changed. She had opinions about women and relationships and money and church. I loved that she was open to sharing her thoughts.
In the last few years, she was interested in the recording of things. She taped my mom and others singing with her. It seemed important to her to leave something vocal behind. Something more than the photographs.
As I grow older, I am recognizing how priorities and interests change. The farther I go, the more I treasure life and desire to live it well. I am thankful to older men and women who are willing to share their stories, their journeys, with me.
I am like my grandma in some ways. I, too, am interested in the story. The sound. It is important to voice things. To say them out loud. Stories are the glue of community. Being able to tell your story is a gift that you give. It is an opening of the door to others. It’s an invitation to relationship.
Johnny Cash is a good friend in our home. We all love his music and his story. Recently, we bought his last studio cd, American VI. It always moves me to tears to hear an old Johnny sing about how the grave wouldn’t be able to keep him down, and how death wouldn’t have victory.
In an old man’s voice, he sings out his faith and his confidence.
He gets to the point.
Ain’t No Grave … Johnny flips us off at one point in this montage. But, this is part of his journey. It is part of the truth of who he was, which makes the story of who he became so beautiful.