Telling Stories Provides Richness and Context to Life

“I have learned more about your life from your blogs than I have from you,” my son David told me recently.

His statement has stuck with me for the last month. It keeps coming back to me, reminding me. These blogs are a way to tell my story to my audience but, also importantly, to my children and grandchildren. The interest is not in the lessons learned as much as the story itself. There is a richness and connection in hearing a story told by a family member.

My Sister’s Stories

Kathy and I are in Hollywood, Florida visiting my sister, Janet. She is moving a little slower these days, so we find it best to meet in the evening over dinner. Janet is eleven years older than I. She lived a whole life at home before I knew I was even living.
We’ve met for dinner the last three days. The conversation meanders to many different topics, but I find myself leaning in when she begins to tell her stories.

One night, she talked about the love my grandmother on my mother’s side showed to her when she was a little girl. My grandmother died before I was born so she only lives in the memory of my sister. There is no one else alive today who knew this woman.

Janet told a story of how kind, loving, and patient my grandmother was. She remembered grandmother helping her put on her coat and carefully and slowly buttoning each button. She said, “She took such care with me.” My sister, who is 75, was four years old at the time.

Richness of Family Stories

This story is in some ways insignificant, but it meant so much to me. It brought me closer to the grandmother I never met. It made me feel like I belonged to something bigger. It made me proud and fond of my family all at the same time. It gave me a memory even though it wasn’t my experience. But it also gave me a memory of my sister at four years old. This little girl, an only child at the time, being loved and fawned on by her grandmother.

So each night I am hearing more stories from Janet. Each dinner brings a richness to my life that I didn’t have the night before.

I think David’s statement stuck with me because it was truth. When we hear the truth, we know it and can’t ignore it. And yet, I don’t tell my children these stories.

Why Tell Stories?

Stories provide richness to life. The richness lies in the stories themselves, not in my perspective of them. The memories are in the stories rather than the lessons or conclusions.

But I don’t tell them except from time to time in this blog. I think it is because I don’t always like the stories. They may be bad memories or reflect poorly on me, my dad, or whomever I’m talking about. Maybe it is because the story seems so insignificant that it doesn’t deserve being told.

All Stories Are Important

David taught me something I didn’t fully realize until now. There is no insignificant story within a family. It doesn’t matter if they are stories told from the perspective of those we love who have made our lives rich or stories filled with chaos. These stories make life meaningful. I don’t know why, but they do.

I’ll never forget the picture of my grandmother buttoning the jacket of my sister as a little girl. I could see my grandmother’s face showing such kindness.

I see my sister at four years old feeling the warmth of this attention and love. I fell in love with my grandmother because of this story, and I never met her. But now, because my sister told this story, I have.

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