My mom loves to reminisce about the fun times we had and the “good ole’ days.”
Reminiscing has always been a big part of her life. Even as a young boy, I can remember my mom telling me stories about her modeling career in New York and all the famous people she met at The Stork Club. Her stories were vivid, and the characters seemed to come to life as she strolled down memory lane.
Stories about family and growing up in the hills of West Virginia are important to her as well. Her eyes light up when she recalls a time that involves her mother, father or one of her older sisters; there were seven girls altogether, and she was the youngest. Funny, I’ve never heard her once complain about a “hand-me-down.” I think they were happy just to have food on the table and clothes on their backs.
On Father’s Day, my oldest daughter, Kaitlyn, was visiting from college, and we decided to have lunch with Mom and spend a little time together just talking. Kaitlyn picked up a photo album that Mom had been looking through and asked Nana questions about the pictures. One question led to another and stories began to roll. Adventures about her sailing club (her nickname was Alligator Mary), trips to various parts of the country and summers spent on the Jersey shore — all kinds of great stories could be found in those pictures. We had a great afternoon of laughter and fun.
Reminiscing is not just for the elderly, nor is it a sign of senility. Reminiscing has been found to be quite healthy for people of all ages. According to Family and Consumer Sciences, reminiscing with another person or in a group can be therapeutic. The process of sharing memories helps individuals achieve a sense of integrity and self-worth.
Reminiscence also can help individuals sum up their life and put the various pieces in order. Through this process, a sense of peace can be achieved. Author Patrick Morley said, “A man’s most innate need is his need to be significant, to make a difference, to find purpose and meaning.”
However, not all reminiscing leads to enjoyable memories. Opening the door to the past can be tricky. You may find that a loved one or friend would rather not talk about a particular situation or period of time. Be sensitive to those topics that a person would rather not discuss. Respect the person’s privacy, but also be available to listen if the person does decide to revisit the conversation.
Asking open-ended questions and adding your own experiences when appropriate can help a person feel more-comfortable about discussing the past. If a person confides in you, keep confidentiality a priority. Talking about a person’s past with other people will break any trust you have formed with this person.
Above all, reminiscing requires time. Something we all can reminisce about was when we had more time.
DeLong is the executive director of The Suites at Station Exchange. Email him at Suites.StationExchange@gmail.com.