My grandfather started his day every morning at 5:30. His cheery, early morning whistling always woke me up. I remember peeking around the edge of the doorframe to see Grandpa, with a tea towel over his left shoulder, as he moved like a graceful swan around the kitchen. The routine was the same each day: He took two tea bags out of the cupboard, Tetley Tea, of course, and put them into the teapot. Then he brought down a bone white china teacup with a matching saucer and placed both on the breadboard.
Because it was so early, I’d usually just wander back to bed. But one morning, I’d made my presence known.
“Whatcha doin’, Gramps?” I’d asked with a yawn.
He’d taken the kettle off the stove and filled the teapot with steamy water. “I’m making, Grandma some tea.” He said, trying to see me through his fogged-over glasses. As he imprisoned the steam in the teapot with the lid, a mini raisin scone popped out of the toaster. “Aren’t you up a bit early, Dumplin’?”
“I heard you whistling and I wanted to see what you were doing.” I said. “Why are you making Grandma tea?
Doesn’t she come out here for tea?”
Grandpa smiled. “I take Grandma her tea and biscuit every morning.”
“Why?” I asked, wrinkling my nose.
Grandpa knelt down to my level and said, “Because she deserves it.”
That scenario was one of my favorite childhood memories because it was his favorite morning ritual: making breakfast for Grandma. My grandparents were married for almost fifty years. Until the day my grandmother died, my grandfather was totally devoted to her. He brought her breakfast in bed every morning; he got her flowers every week; and he wasn’t afraid to show his love for her. Even when they had little tiffs, Grandma would laugh and he’d soften. They made me believe in relationships.
I believe if we’re more in tune with what’s going on in our relationship, we can nurture the things lacking our attention and keep the fires burning strong as the do in the beginning. There were things my grandparents did that I don’t see practiced as much nowadays. Allow me to share a few of their secrets with you:
Talk To Me: Communication, next to honesty and mutual respect, is the most important thing in a relationship with all three factors making the solid base. If you aren’t talking to one another—really talking—how can either person be happy? Sometimes just saying, “Okay, I know there’s something wrong, hunny. Let’s talk about it.” can mean so much. Especially when it’s difficult for your partner to bring bothersome things up on their own. Personally, I think that was the real reason my grandfather took my Grandma breakfast in bed every morning. It was their time to talk about stuff they couldn’t when everyone was around.
Honey, Lend Me Your Ears: Equally as important to communication is listening. This means listening with your ears and heart open and your mouth shut. We all hear when people are talking to us but listening is different. Think of when you’re listening to music: you feel the beat, you pay attention to the lyrics (if there are any), you take note of the instruments being used and the person’s singing style. This is what you should be doing when listening to your partner.
If she or he comes to you with something to talk about, put away all distractions: turn the phone ringer off, turn off the television, and put the newspaper down. Look at your loved one in the eyes to show you’re genuinely interested in what they’re saying. A nod or “Mm hm” or a touch on the arm to encourage their words to come is good too. These are all things to show that you care, even if you don’t truly understand how they’re feeling. Knowing the most important person in your life cares enough to put all else aside to hear a little worry or big concern is a tremendous comfort.
Grandpa was a fantastic listener. Even when he’d fallen asleep in his Lazy Boy recliner, Grandma had his complete attention if she needed something.
The Little Things Do Count: A lot of people I talk to have told me they sometimes appreciate when a person has done a bunch of little things for them because they add up to one big thing. Think of how much you appreciate it when a person picks something up you’ve dropped when your hands are too full. Or when you go to do the dishes and they’re already done. I don’t know about you but when a chore I have to do is already done for me, I could do a happy dance.
Doing the laundry, tidying up the house, making supper, letting your partner lay down and rest—these were all little things Gramps did for my grandmother to make things a bit easier for her. Believe me, little things mean the world to the receiver—especially when they’re done without prompting.
Just Because: Grandpa brought flowers to my grandmother every week. Sometimes he bought them for her but most of the time, he put together a beautiful bouquet from the garden he planted with all her favorites in it. When you asked him why he did it he said, “Just because Grandma deserves it.” Those are the best kinds of gifts. Write a little love note and stick it in his or her lunch; write “I Love You” across the mirror (use washable marker though – I’ve made that mistake before.) or call them at home or at the office in the middle of the day just to see how they’re doing. These are things we store in our memory chests to remind us what made us fall in love in the first place.
Hugs, Kisses and Cuddles: Grandpa was never afraid to show his love for my grandmother. He wasn’t overly mushy but he gave her a peck on the cheek when she was reading or a hug while she was cooking. Intimacy doesn’t always mean sex, although that’s fun too. After a few years into a relationship, however, it becomes more important for the hugs, kisses and cuddles. Small reminders like these throughout the day show that you think about and love your partner.
I’m Sorry: If Grandpa snapped or made a mistake, he was never too proud to apologize. This is very important, on both sides. Sometimes we say things we don’t mean to, forget something important or the words just don’t come out right or are taken wrong. A sincere apology and forgiveness are very important. It helps to show respect, love and understanding. It also says a lot about the person apologizing. Being able to admit a wrong is very admirable.
These are some of the most important things I learned from my grandparents’ relationship. Because of their influence, I waited until I found just the right person before I settled down. He may not bring me breakfast in bed every morning, but we’ve been together for almost ten years now and we’re still happy. I guess I’ll keep him.