“You never know what you have until it’s gone” … that is what they say… and us humans have this tendency to take things and people for granted.  We do it with material possessions, such as our car, our phone, internet, but we also do it with people, especially those who are closest to us. Our grandparents, perhaps, are amongst those people around us whom we do take for granted.  By focusing on how they appear to us now, we may fail to appreciate how much they have journeyed in their lives, how much they have contributed and how much they still do.

Our grandparents have a lifetime of experience to share. What we read and study in our history books, they have lived first-hand, or parts of it at least! Problems that we encounter in our daily lives, relationship issues that may break our hearts, life decisions we agonise upon, they have gone through them, and somehow survived them.  So maybe their hearing and memory is not what it used to be, but this does not take anything away from the wisdom they have gained along the years and their resilience to handle life’s challenges and adversities.

Therefore, it may be worth the while to dedicate some time to listen to what our grandparents have to share with us. The context they grew up in is, of course, different to ours, but we may be surprised to learn that their struggles may not be so different to ours today.  So, dismiss any stereotypes you may have of the elderly and instead be curious and engage in a conversation with them.  Next time you visit your grandmother ask her how she met your grandfather.  Did she have a say in choosing her future husband or was this imposed on her? Was he her first love or was she ever heartbroken? How was the dating scene at her time, how easy or difficult was it for her to spend time with her lover? You may wish to be more daring and ask about how she learnt about sex and her experience of this. While engaging in such conversation, take time to really listen with your heart.  Try and place yourself in her shoes and understand what it must have been like for her.

The kind of questions you can ask her are endless.  Think of the areas in your life which may cause you stress at some point or another – work, money, family, friends, sex, health, love – she has been there, done it and got the T-shirt! What better advice can you get than from someone who has experienced something similar and lived to tell the tale? Look at it as a win-win situation.  By showing genuine interest in what she has to share with you, you are contributing towards validating her and her life story, thus enhancing her sense of well-being.  On the other hand, you are also benefitting by learning from her experience and wisdom which you can apply to your life today.

So, don’t let time pass you by.  Appreciate what you have before it becomes what you had.  

Stephanie Caruana is a counsellor at Willingness. She offers counselling services to adolescents and adults experiencing some form of distress. She can be contacted on stephanie@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.