Listening to the elders yields stories never before heard

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Joe Agee Sr. chats with his son, Joe Agee Jr SUBMITTED

For the last 40 years, I've been extremely fortunate to have my parents vacation here, where I live, each year. My mom can no longer travel, but Dad, at 88, can still muster enough energy to make the trip.

"Pops" lives in an assisted living continuing care retirement community, along with Mom, who resides next door in a memory care unit in Williamsburg, Va.

Sitting in his condo this trip, I asked him some questions about how he decided to make the move to a retirement community. He said he noticed Mom starting to have issues with her memory as she turned 80 and he wanted her to be someplace where she could get the care she would eventually need.

He said he was done with yard work, and numerous past injuries (falling off a ladder, etc.) ultimately led to various operations (knees and ankles).

As I was about to ask the next question, Pops said something I hadn't heard before. He said, "I miss my Mom and Dad."

My grandmother passed away almost 39 years ago, my grandfather in 1991. I didn't say anything. I could see my dad's eyes water a bit and it was quite a touching moment. After a short sliver of silence, Pops quickly went back in time.

I was about to hear stories I had never heard before. It was eye-opening, a bit mind-boggling, but so awesome to hear how the day-to-day lives back then were quite different from those of today.

So, here is the take-away thought for the day: Your father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, great-grandfather and great-grandmother all have a story to tell. And maybe they haven't told you the whole story because you haven't asked.

My dad's short-term memory is a little sketchy. He gets confused sometimes and has a hard time with some mental processing; however, in a span of 30 minutes he went back as far as his dad's (my grandfather's) challenge of just getting to grammar school. Have you ever walked seven miles to get to class?

The various tidbits of how everything worked was somewhat hard to believe because things are so different now. Dad told me he broke his elbow as a senior in high school, one day before his basketball practice was to start. I never knew that!

Once your loved ones pass away, you can't have any more conversations with them. Talk to them now.

What happened 80 to 90 years ago can only be shared by the individuals who were there to experience those days. You'll find that aging seniors' long-term memories will be stronger, so you'll get more detail and accurate information.

Next time you get with your extended family make a note to ask some questions about their history. You might find out something quite interesting.

Joe Agee is the marketing and sales director for The Seabrook of Hilton Head. TheSeabrook.com

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