Something to Talk About
Family & Friends

Something to Talk About

I mentioned in the post about my mom that my family has never been one to talk on a regular basis. I’ve always been amazed when I hear about people who talk to their parents or kids every day. What do you talk about?

Since my dad moved into assisted living early last May, I’ve talked to him every day. Yes, every day.

Even when I did call my parents’ house, if my dad answered the phone, he’d say a few words and then give the phone to my mom. So, going from that to every day? It’s been interesting.

Two things have led to this. First, he has never lived alone. Second, COVID made living alone feel even more alone. So my sister and I decided we should talk to him every day. It’s not like we have to worry about his safety. There are people in and out of his apartment every day. Our focus, I guess, is making sure he talks to someone he knows every day.

My sister was still working at the time, so she would call in the early evening, around 6:30. I called in the afternoon around 2:00. Even though she retired last September, we still follow this routine. Sometimes we switch, when she sees him during the day or I have something else going on. It’s been easy, given I hardly leave the house. I am starting to wonder how things might change when our lives return to something more normal.

It’s challenging coming up with things to talk about every day. At least for me. I’m not chatty. With anyone. I’ll tell you what we do talk about and then maybe you could provide some suggestions?

Sports

If you know my dad, you know he’s a sports lover. For the first three months, there were no sports. We made sure to get him the sports package for his TV, but there was nothing to watch. And that means, nothing to talk about.

But once baseball started in the late summer, it helped a lot. He had something to watch as well as something we could discuss. I like baseball but don’t follow it as closely as I could. Tim feeds me little tidbits that help me sound like I know what I’m talking about. My dad only likes to watch a few teams, saying he doesn’t know many guys on the other teams. I told him, that’s how you get to know them.

When football started, he could catch a few Iowa State games. But ISU games are becoming tougher to watch, because so many are carried on ESPN+ instead of regular TV stations. The Big 12 has really hurt their viewers. ISU had a good season so we could talk about that. Iowa started out poorly but ended well, so we could talk about them too.

Then basketball started and is about to end. We talked a lot about the Hawkeyes and their high hopes for the year. He’ll ask me questions like, how tall is Wieskamp? Since I’m sitting right by my laptop when I call him, I check things out. I look up all kinds of things while we talk so I can give him information. He always asks how I do it, I explain it, but then he never remembers when he wants to do it himself.

Construction

It just so happens that we both have construction projects going on outside our windows. So, we talk about what the workers are doing every day. One day, I snapped a picture while we were talking. Oh, did I mention that we use FaceTime? I can’t say he’s mastered it, but he can handle the basics. I like being able to see him and I hope he likes seeing me too.

Anyway, here are pictures of what he sees and what I see. These were both taken about the end of January.

As you might expect, there’s been quite a bit of progress made in the last two months since these pictures were taken. Although, I’m surprised, as it appears much more construction happens during the winter than I expected. Both of these buildings now have windows, siding and shingles.

Barbershop quartets

My dad sang in a quartet that won the international seniors contest in 1998. Because of that, they traveled all over the country to sing in barbershop shows. It was one of the best times of his life and he has lots of good memories. So, he talks about all the big time quartets and the guys he knows, as well as his own experiences throughout the years. It’s amazing how he can remember all the names, the cities, etc. but he can’t tell me what he had for lunch.

One of his quartet friends will tell him if something barbershop related is on YouTube and while my dad can’t seem to master it, I am able to bring things up for him. It was really tough before we could visit him. I’d get to it on my laptop and then flip my camera so he could watch it.

Webster City

We lived in Webster City from 1958 to 1972. My dad and I were especially heartbroken when we had to leave because of his job. We talk about our old neighbors and one day, I even brought up a picture of our old street. Memories are very fuzzy at times and it’s funny what each of us remembers.

One day, I got an email from church about a death. It turned out to be the son of our old next door neighbors. Such a small world. I knew my dad would be interested in it.

Names of people I’d completely forgotten about will come up and it brings back all kinds of memories.

Finances

I am in charge of all the bill paying, etc. but I want everything to be very transparent. Understandably, he wants to be able to monitor his checking account balance. We tried to set him up (again, this was remotely) and we couldn’t get it to work. He needed his “security word” which of course, he didn’t remember.

Since I am on his checking account, I was able to set up my own online account. Even when I called the bank for help, they said to just have him use my online account. (Remember my post about cybersecurity?) Anyway, that works pretty well. The only complication is that periodically, they want to send a code for verification. I had listed my phone number as the primary contact, so my phone was always at the top of the list and he couldn’t seem to understand (even though I created written instructions) that he could scroll down and pick his phone. So I would get these text messages out of the blue with verification codes. I can’t tell you how many times we spent our daily calls with me trying to instruct him.

I finally updated the contacts so his phone now appears at the top of the list. Now if we can just get him to understand how text messages work!!

What we’re doing

This is tough, given neither of us is doing much outside of the house. I tell him about my cardmaking but I don’t think he really understands. I told him one day we’d gone to AllSpice (where we buy herbs, spices and olive oil) and I think he thought I said something about Old Spice. Today, I mentioned we have a duck nest on the east side of our house. Last summer, we had a cardinal nest in our clematis. Every little thing becomes a conversation tidbit.

There are days when I wonder if we should continue doing this. I even think he might wonder the same thing even though I haven’t asked him. But then I think about this quote and decide, it needs to be done.

OK, any suggestions for topics?

12 Comments

  • Cathie Haab

    Just read this post today. I commend you for being so faithful as to call your dad every day. Your sister also deserves praise.

    My husband and I call his mom in assisted living everyday, usually while we are eating supper. She says she appreciates it, and I’m sure that’s true. Many times I find myself with a bad attitude about it because 1), she mostly complains that nothing is going on and she sees no one (except the many housekeeping, dining, nursing, administrative staff, and chaplain several times a day); 2), the food isn’t great, no vegetables, she eats too much on an undesirable schedule and is gaining weight (but the menu is varied and she just doesn’t like many veggies except corn and peas); 3), the staff (and other residents now) come and go freely, so why is she still locked up (she’s not); 4), there really is no conversation so no need for me to think up topics – even when she asks what did I do today, she doesn’t pause long enough to listen; 5), my social life and contacts are significantly less than hers, and no one calls to ask me how I am and/or I don’t really want to be a complaining burden to anyone, so I just stay quiet. I also can’t think of a better time of day to call, even though I resent not having dinner with “just” my husband once in awhile.

    Sorry to be a downer. I won’t regret continuing calling, I know. I doubt if things will change soon. Thanks for listening.

    • Retired Introvert

      Oh, I completely understand. My dad also complains about things. Too much food, too much staff turnover, no one around on weekends, nobody knows what they’re doing. He tells people he’s in a nursing home even though he’s in assisted living. Moving in during COVID has only shown him the negative. He’s not happy but resigned to the fact that he has no purpose and tells me it’s no fun getting old. Nothing I say changes his mind about that but he doesn’t dwell on it. He is interested in what we’re doing even though it isn’t much. There are definitely days when I wish I didn’t have to call because it disrupts my day but I’m always glad I did. I will call until he says not to but I doubt he will.

      You’re not a downer. Some days it’s really tough. I think it’s ok to be honest about that. Hang in there and thanks so much for sharing.

  • Patricia West Doyle

    Wow, you have way more topics of conversation than I do! With my mom, I tend to talk about the weather and her last or next docter appointment. I try and tell her what I’m doing, since her world has gotten very limited. But her memory has gotten bad, short term and now even long term, so any “remember” comments get her frustrated. Even “what did you watch or read” can frustrate her as she stuggles to recall and arcticulate. But I still call her… every other day for me. My sister does the daily call (always did – that’s their thing). Sometimes I think she just wants to hear my voice, and I’m OK with that.

    • Retired Introvert

      I think you’re probably right about just wanting to hear your voice. I suspect for him, it’s just nice to know that he’ll be talking to us every day. Except, some days, if he has a question, he doesn’t save it for our afternoon call, but will call me in the morning. It must seem more urgent to him than it does to me. It’s OK, just makes me chuckle that he can’t wait a few more hours. I tell him my days aren’t any more exciting than his and that’s the truth. I don’t leave the house much and I don’t have kids to update him on as my sister does. Oh well. As Tim says, it’s the cycle of life.

  • Marty

    Oh dear, I can’t imagine the virtual hoops you’re having to jump through in order to have some transparency about his finances with him. It’d be one thing if you could sit and show him as opposed to having him log in and look. But not being able to be there in person must really making this challenging. I commend you for figuring it out as well as you have.

    My dad wasn’t a phone talker at all. In person he was fine, but he just never enjoyed long phone conversations. It must be challenging to figure out what to discuss each time.

    • Retired Introvert

      I’d say neither of us are phone talkers, which really makes it challenging some days. FaceTime helps a lot, at least for me. The way I look at it, we’re at least touching base. I never want him to feel smothered, but I don’t get that impression from him at all. So, until he says, don’t call so much, I’ll keep calling every day.

      We can now visit him one day a week for an hour (although we stay longer and no one kicks us out) and if he has computer questions, he brings them up then. Much easier to troubleshoot although his explanations aren’t always easy for me to follow. I’m not that computer savvy, but he’s way worse!! Same with his phone. 🥴

  • Ally Bean

    I wonder what people talk about too. Like you I know of people who talk with their parents or children every day and it is beyond me. I can be chatty in small amounts, but daily? Not going to happen.

    As for topics to talk about with your dad, any memories about weather that was unusual and the turmoil it caused? Or what does he remember about going to elementary school? Who was the smart one or the bully or the sweet one? Favorite restaurants?

    • Retired Introvert

      Thanks for the ideas!!! We haven’t talked about elementary school but lots about his high school class. And lots of good stories about growing up on the farm. He’s always shared funny stories and I never mind hearing them over and over.

  • KC

    It sounds as if you’re doing a GREAT job with your dad. I loved working with Barney at IMT and we literally ran in to each other at my senior party. 🙂My mom is 87 and we, too, visit every morning. Weather, daily plans, when to get together, etc. seem to be the norm of our conversations. Take care and remember you are special and doing awesome! ❤️

    • Retired Introvert

      I have heard the senior party story a few times. 😉
      We seem to find something to discuss every day, even if it’s to say we have nothing new to talk about!!

  • BettyMc

    For some reason my mom was always overly interested in weather forecasts. As she was pretty much bed ridden at the nursing home her tv was an important part of her daily life, especially the Weather Channel. While she may not have been interested in what else was going on in the world you could always count on her knowing what the weather would be like pretty much any and everywhere in the country. Consequently we never were at a loss for something to talk about.

    • Retired Introvert

      We do talk about the weather because it seems like we’ve had so many windy days. But not to that extent. My dad doesn’t watch a lot of TV beyond sports but he does like Blue Bloods and Matlock. We also talk about what lousy sleepers we are!!

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