"The best times you are going to have in life are at the dinner table and in bed." Old Italian saying. So relax, and enjoy the simple things!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Small Talk...it's Big.: Simple Living Ideas

girls posing for photos
Mostly Maria, two pics upper right are me.

My sister who is closest to me in age is profoundly retarded. Maria has a rare chromosome disorder called Seckel syndrome. Maria is very short and hyperactive. She constantly walks around pill rolling her fingers and making shrieking sounds. 

You see Maria can’t speak. The syndrome is characterized by birdlike features. She bellows her throat like a bird in order to make sounds, but she can’t talk. Maria doesn’t have enough motor control or intellect to use sign language, so her ability to communicate is limited. 

Maria and I spent a lot of time together as kids, and I got to understand what many of her sounds mean. It wasn’t all bad having a retarded sister. When I was mad at my older sister Linda I would sometimes break her 45’s, and when she asked what happened. I would casually say, “Maria, did it.” 

Maria wasn’t going to get in trouble, and by default neither was I. My cover was eventually blown when I was about 8 and I drew a life size drawing of a little girl on my bedroom wall. 

Enraged my mother looked at me and said, “Who did this?” 

I confidently replied, “Maria did it.” 

My mother’s eyes widened and got teary as she said, “I wish she could have.”

There are a lot of things I wish Maria could do. The one thing that I always wished for, even when I was a little kid, was for her to be able to have a conversation with me. 

All I’ve ever wanted to do with Maria is just have one chat. You know the kind of silly chats sisters have? This secret wish of mine has always made me very appreciative of small conversation. I really see how important it is to spend a few minutes talking to the cashier... you know, about how sweet the peaches are right now.

When someone elderly happens to strike up a conversation with me in the post office or the library. I try not to hurry away, because I know that when you are old you may not get out very much, and the trivial conversation with me... about how much junk mail she gets... or how wonderful the last book she read was... may be her only conversation of the day.

Trust me the ability to have a conversation is not to be taken for granted. My sister’s disorder is rare, but Alzheimer's and strokes are not. Your's or a loved one’s ability to converse can be taken away in a moment.

So the next time someone asks you... how are you doing?... enjoy the opportunity for a brief easy moment of intimacy with another human being...  and appreciate the simple connection that is so easily made by a little small talk. 




22 comments:

  1. Very touching. So many things we take for granted. Thanks for the reminder.

    Dan Garner
    ZenPresence.com

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    1. Thank you your blog always reminds me to be grateful.

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  2. Well said Ms. Balch. :) The little conversations also can include thanking the park staff for maintaining the park, letting the cashier at the deli know that you acknowledge their human"ness" by being a kind customer. It's the simple things that people often remember.

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    1. Thanks Cathy... it is so easy in our automated time to forget to treat someone as human.

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  3. I'm so with you on this one. I try to remember regardless of how hurried I am that my smile or conversation may make that persons day. And it's true whether it's face to face or over the internet. Kindness is not a hard thing to pass along. Your sisters story brought tears to my eyes.
    thank you for sharing!

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    1. Yeah, it is really so important when we live in a time when all anyone can say is "I'm busy."
      Just so you know, my sister is pretty well adjusted and laughs very easily. She also loves football so this is her time of year.

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  4. Thank you for the reminder. I love talking to people, but especially listening to them. I've never thought about it from their perspective though. I just know that I always walk away from taking the time to listen, feeling happier.

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    1. You're so right Adelina, it doesn't matter if you can't think of anything to say back. Listening is the most important part of any conversation.

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  5. Hello Diane, Thank you so much for sharing such an important and touching story! I hope anyone that reads this will pass it a long, such GREAT advice!!!Being a physically disabled person at a rather young age with conditions that keep me from getting out side of the home very often, I can relate to your kind and important words! The times that I do get out of the house, I always enjoy speaking to people, and smiling, even to people I have just met, it helps me not to feel so alone and closed in. So I would like to thank the people that do take the time to speak to people they don't know, and to encourage the rest, most of us would be glad to have a conversation or even just a short hello or have a nice day!

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    1. Trish, I can't imagine the challenges that you have faced. The internet is pretty nice for helping people who can't get around easily have connection.
      Thank you for letting us know how much it matters. It isn't easy to put yourself in someone elses shoes.

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  6. Diane, What a touching story and message! When I was in middle school we had to put my grandmother in a nursing home. She shared a room with 3 other ladies. I loved going up there with my mother on a daily basis and visiting with the residents. Many had no family or no family that visited them, so they were starving for conversation. At times it was hard, for various reasons, but with patience and understanding I found it to be a rewarding experience. We're all going to be there one day, so treat people as to how you want to be treated. Lots of hugs Darlin!

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    1. My mother was a nurse in a nursing home so I know exactly what you mean about how starved people can be for conversation. I also worked as a "Visiting Neighbor" in NYC.... there as so many people who have lead such fascinating lives that are shut in in NYC. It was a wonderful and painful experience.

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  7. Lovely post and some nice reminders that we all need in life.

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    1. Thank you, I never wrote about my sister before.

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  8. Beautiful!

    I am reminded of my pastor's homily at mass this weekend. He shared a story about a priest who looked at how seminarians treated the kitchen staff and the maintenance man before recommending they be ordained.

    It truly takes only a few minutes to acknowledge someone and treat them with kindness.

    Thank you for sharing your post at Motivation Monday!

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    1. My mother always told me to notice how a date treats the waitress because that is how he is going to treat you.

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  9. I completely agree. I always like to chat to people and I always spend extra time if they are older or look like they might be a bit lonely. I was very touched by the story of your sister. I had not heard of Seckel Syndrome.

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    1. Seckel Syndrome is extremely rare. In the state of Connecticut were my sister lives there are only 3 other people with her condition.

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    2. My goodness, that must have been so challenging for your family, with so few others to empathise and share experiences with! Alea and I are both so touched by your post and especially by the points you raise about the importance of 'small talk'. We will be featuring it on the Gallery this week.

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    3. Thank you so much April as I told Alea this was the hardest thing I ever wrote so I am very pleased that it has touched some people.

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  10. My oldest son did not start to talk until he was 4 and I watched my grandmother slowly lose her ability to communicate because of alzheimer's so this post really resonated with me. I find that when I take the time to chat with someone I am always greatly blessed by the experience.

    April and I are featuring this post on the Gallery tomorrow.

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    1. Alea I'm so sorry that you understand this so personally. Thank you.

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