Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Legacy of Conversation

“NEVER did I ever imagine that the genes in our bodies would take you into my brain and that of Pop's. As I get older, I see the specific genes at work in my children...and as my children age they are becoming aware that the forwardness of our genes are determined to "show-up" as they are called upon. This is true in not only thoughts and physicality but in the issues we defend or deplore. It is a wonder if we allow our minds to be open to the truth of how we feel, think, and look at the human spirit within us it shines through.”

These were the thoughts recently written by Dale Nagy, my grandmother (belovedly called “Nanna”), in reaction to my blog.

I was not surprised that my Nanna would see her own thoughts reflected in my writings. Ours was a family that never ceased talking. The television – there was only one in the house, down in the basement – was rarely on. We were busy doing things together, reading, and/or talking. Family stories were repeated over and over again until they felt like they were part of our own experiences. “Tell me again about the time when you and my aunt ran into the bee’s nest,” I would ask. I can really see that scene play out in my head, although it happened long before I was born.

Although I was not homeschooled and my parents were not involved in the school parent-teacher association, they truly were a part of my education. When I got home from school, they would ask me questions about my day. Not just general questions like “How was your day?”, but specific ones. “What did you learn new today? Tell me about your teacher. What are your friends’ names? What about the other kids?” When a problem arose, they would role-play with me so I could be better prepared with dealing with that situation on my own.

“Don’t they give you a summer reading list?” my father complained, “When I was in school I was learning Latin and reading great books like The Old Man and the Sea and Moby Dick…” He made those classics seem so important to a child’s development that I made sure to read them. Many years later we would compile a list of must-read-books for the good of my teenage brother. And I am still trying to learn a bit of Latin and Greek roots, along with the kids.

During the summer I would often spend a week or two with my Nanna and Poppop. I would take long walk with Poppop and his little hotdog-dog, Penny. “You’re funny,” I would tell him, and he would say, “No, you are.” Nanna would bake with me and play games with me. The whole time was spent sharing stories.

When parents and older relatives share their experiences with young ones, they might sometimes wonder if the kids are listening. Even if they tune out some of them, you can be sure most of it is getting through. Through a repetition of themes and values, the stories become a lesson on how things are in the world, how one can deal with problems that arise, the constancy of morals and how following them ultimately works out for the good.

The good of talking can also make possible that your values are infiltrating their thinking and actions, even when you are not there. Even if you must work long hours, do not volunteer at the school, or are only able to visit the grandchildren once a year, you can have a long-lasting influence on those who truly need it.

"Raise up a child in the way he should go;
And when is old, he will not depart from it.”
Proverbs 22:6

Picture of me with Nanna at my first daughter's First Communion in May 2005.

No comments: