The opportunity to spend a week with my mother gave us time to talk and pickup conversation, unlike phone calls. Catching up on family and relatives brought back memories of celebrations and relationships. Because of a heart condition, my paternal grandfather could no longer farm. The youngest brother, my dad and his new bride were the ones living with dad’s parents and farming. These were good times, because my mother tells stories. How the mother-in-law taught the new bride about cooking. Listening to mom tell these stories makes it plain that they became good friends. Grandpa became the baby-sitter, while grandma, mom, and dad farmed. In all the years of listening to stories, and my memory of that time it was a time of idyllic compatibility. Most of all I remember both when we lived on the farm and afterwards – the relationships and personalities of these paternal relatives.
Dad was the youngest of two older sisters and a brother. The oldest aunt was harsh, a person difficult to understand. Whereas her younger sister was the exact opposite, someone you always wanted to be with. Fearing or looking forward to family visits was the result of attitudes. For the first time, I understood the harsh and difficult life of the older aunt. This contrasted with a better life for the younger aunt. Listening to these stories, and learning more about each family, made me see things differently. Both families had their share of pain and suffering. They simply choose to deal with these human conditions in a different way. Too frequently we overlook the demons haunting those who we think are doing fine. Empathy is only possible when we stop and listen to the whispers of the quiet ones. And see beyond the shouting of the loud ones.