Cracking Walnuts and Watching Birds Around the Old Woodstove

By: Dr. David McIntosh

When I was in college, I would often stay at my grandparents’ house over breaks. In the winter, I would often find myself sitting with grandpa out in the breezeway by the woodstove cracking walnuts he had collected in the Fall and watching the birds at the feeder. We would sit for hours visiting. I learned quickly that it was important to do more listening then talking. It wasn’t because grandpa wasn’t interested in what I had to say it was because grandpa enjoyed telling stories. He would talk about growing up during the great depression, how he cut his hand with an axe, how many bushels of tomatoes the garden produced this past year, how the frost got the cherry trees, how he made rhubarb wine, him complaining about the price of birdseed, him complaining that gas went up 2 cents this past week (This was always brought-up in every conversation.) etc. I think you get the point…the stories and topics were endless.  If heard I them once, I heard them a dozen times. Looking back now, I long for those wintry days sitting by the woodstove and visiting with grandpa but I digress. I guess what I am trying to say is it is important to listen, and not just to the elderly.  I have learned that people have experienced a lot in their lives and most people have interesting things to share. Albeit, I will likely never make rhubarb wine; however, knowing the process helps me appreciate the work that goes into making wine. I also think helping our younger generation learn to listen and appreciate what others have to say is an important skill to pass on.  Respecting others and trying to understand the perspectives of others, even if we disagree with them, is important. I didn’t necessarily agree with everything grandpa had to say, and he had a lot to say and a lot of opinions, but I listened.  Now thinking back, grandpa did a lot of listening too! In fact, he listened to that young college student, who was likely pretty opinioned at the time and thought he knew everything! I guess grandpa was helping the next generation to learn to listen and respect others.

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