Sunday, January 20, 2008

Today I Sat and Listened...And Learned

Sometimes you just have to sit and listen.

Today I visited my elderly aunt. She is eighty-two years old, having just seen this birthday, her body is failing but her mind is sharp. I sat in her company for two and one-half hours to talk, listen, and learn. Mostly, I listened.

Our oral history is rich with nuggets, a wealth of knowledge locked up in the minds of our nation's elders. I realized this evening, though I've had numerous conversations with this aunt, the historian, there was still much to learn. The time I had to hold her hand, touch her arm, feel her touch my hand was precious, I felt as if I was reaching across time as we shared a laugh and a knowing smile. There truly is nothing new under the sun.

This is the year of a few important 40th year anniversaries including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr,'s assassination, my mother's death, and my life as a mother-less child. As I was sitting in the company of my aunt, watching her eyes look in a lens of a time long ago, I understood the wealth of a nation. My visit with my aunt was not in her senior citizen apartment complex but in a long-term care facility, her temporary home due to a recent illness. There were many elders there, men and women, who came of age in the 1940s and hold countless treasures, walking history books waiting to be read.

After my visit with my dear aunt, my husband and I gathered our daughters from his aunt's house and drove the 20 minutes home. At the dinner table we mentioned what we were thankful for and family was the resounding answer.

God has blessed us to be back in the city of our birth, St. Louis, a city where so much history is contained in the brick buildings of memory. My grandfather was born here, my grandmother was born here, most of my cousins were born here, all of my mother's siblings and all of my mother's children. There is something spiritual and soulful about being in the presence of legacy and in the memory of family. We spoke of this blessing at our dinner table to the sponge-like minds of our youngest children, into their ears, penetrating their spirits, emblazoned in their soul. One day I will be an elder and a granddaughter will sit and talk with me and learn about a different life, I pray that I will have the stories to tell, I pray she will cherish them like I cherish the stories of my elders.

Today, I sat and listened and learned and walked away complete.

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