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Who is Listening?

My youngest grandson is named Max.  Max is a perfect name for him – living life to the max.  Max is 3, going on 14. 


During my last visit with my son's family, Max's mother, my daughter-in-law, Caley, was busy getting a meal ready. Max announced, “Mom, I need to poop.”  Caley encouraged him by saying, “Go ahead to the restroom by yourself.”  Again, he announced his need.  Caley, again, encouraged him to go by himself.  Then, Max asked, “But who will talk to me?”  Max wanted his mom to talk with him while he went to the bathroom. 


It reminded me of an incident involving my wife's mom, Vena.  Late in life, Vena transitioned to a nursing home in Wichita.  However, the family returned to Wichita to celebrate special occasions in Vena’s home, bringing her over during the events. 


Vena's voice had softened due to her chronic illness - speaking, but just barely above a whisper.


On the occasion I recall, much of the family was at Vena's home.  Vena was resting in her wheelchair, sitting at the kitchen table, while the family busied itself preparing a meal and visiting about some subject or another.  My wife heard her mom say something, and asked, “Mom, who are you talking to?”  Vena responded:


“Anyone who will listen.”


While that response brought a lot of laughter, it was also a sobering reminder to make her part of the event.  Just because she had a chronic illness did not mean she could not participate.  Several family members sat down with Vena, talking with her and not around her.


Once in a while, we have families who want to do planning for their parents.  A recent call is a good example.  The children wanted to set up an estate planning appointment for their father without his involvement.  I wanted more information before I agreed to meet.  According to the family, he was hard of hearing.  However, I learned he still lives independently, drives, and manages his own affairs.  Though elderly, he is competent.  I decided I would not have the meeting without his attendance. 


It is important to me that I know my client.  I want my client to know that I am listening, as well as hearing; that the client's wishes or wants are important; that I represent him/her and not the children.


My lesson from my mother-in-law and Max is that whether you are 93 or 3, you want to and should be heard; you want people to take time to have a conversation with you.  You are not insignificant. 


Back to Max:  I listened to the conversation and it was hilarious.  He wanted his mom to pretend she was a nurse, and he was the patient – and how could she help him.  Caley’s deep chuckle was as funny as the occasion.  


It is so wonderful when we take time to listen and hear.  


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