“You Never Asked…”
One of my favorite stories I ever heard from a resident that I was helping move into an Independent Living community, didn’t come from the story itself. It came from the conversation after the story was told.
“Tell me about yourself” I asked. Long pause followed by “I like bingo, I play bridge. Duplicate bridge. No one here will be able to play bridge like I can. I can almost guarantee that one.” I laugh and tell her that she will have to teach me a thing or two. I continue, “Jospehine, I want to hear more. Not about what you like doing today. But what you liked doing 40-50 years ago. I want to hear about where you grew up. Your life. Your childhood. Your favorite memories.” She looked at me as if I had asked her something crazy. Then the look on her face changed. Her body relaxed. When she looked in my eyes, I could tell that she was looking beyond me and into her past. A small smile turned into a loud laughter.
“My daddy was a farmer. We had hundreds and hundreds of acres of land.” Wow, that’s amazing, I interrupted. “To you, maybe. But I was the one who had to work on all those acres. It was a real pain in my you know what.” She continued. “I hated that farm. All I wanted to do was play and I wasn’t able to do anything except a laundry list of chores.” Then there it was. I have never seen such a smug smile. The corner of her mouth went up like a child who was caught doing something bad. Daddy used to make me so mad. He had me sack potatoes for miles and miles. You know, where you collect all of the potatoes on the ground and put them into one of those potato sacks. When the potato sacks were filled with “potatoes”, we would toss them to Daddy and he would lug them for miles back to the house. I used to fill up the sacks with rocks. They were easier to find and lot more fun to throw in the bags. I used to get joy by watching the sweat drip from daddy’s brow trying to lift that thing over his shoulder. I can still hear the grunting.” She lets out a huge laugh. We all did. “That was probably my last memory of me sacking potatoes.” She adds, “Because that WAS the last time Daddy asked me to help sack potatoes.”
Josephine’s daughter had a look of pure confusion on her face. “MOM! You never told me that story. Why have I never heard that story?” Josephine simply stated, “You never asked.”
That was one of my favorite stories because it reminded me that everyone has one. Everyone has a story. Those three little words, “You never asked” are a constant reminder to me to make sure that I remember to ask, learn and embrace everyone’s story.
*Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of the residents.