Too many times, I’ve made the mistake of forcing a photo for the sake of a memory, but when all is said and done, I didn’t create an experience. I created an Instagram post. And what’s that worth once the likes trickle away? 

When you’re with your grandparents, whether you’re at their house or anywhere else, put your phone away. I’m not saying you shouldn’t snap a few fun photos amidst a sweet moment, but don’t makeshift a moment for the sake of a photo.  

Show your appreciation for them by stepping away from the technology and carving pumpkins, introducing them to the newest pumpkin spice craze, and strolling through the orange and red leaves. Pay attention to their words, make a mental note of the way their eyes light up when they laugh. You’ll treasure these moments more than a photo anyway. (Promise.)

4. Blast to Their Past

Maw Maw grew up on a farm in Alabama. She was the firstborn of six children, entering the world amidst WWII. Her family didn’t have much, so she’s no stranger to hunger; she’s too familiar with raising her five siblings—childhood’s fun never fully accessed.

Even still, I’ve learned that she, like so many others, wants to share her past. Her past explains her present. Her present, and all its past experiences, provide wisdom to shape the future of whoever’s listening.

Be the person who asks the questions, who listens to the answers. Even if your grandparents, like mine, grew up in hard times, ask what their Thanksgivings looked like, what food was served, which traditions were their favorite. Even in their answers break your heart, the reality that you care about every piece of them is what’s helping mend their hearts.

5. Continue the Grateful Spirit

It’s easy to be thankful in October, November, and December. These months create nostalgia that makes life a little easier to celebrate. Nonetheless, your grandparents deserve your thankfulness, your friendship, your presence once January rolls around. 

Discover the best way to regularly stay in touch with your grandparents—even if you live 1400 miles away from them like I do. Maybe it’s a FaceTime date once a week. Maybe, if your grandparents are like Bonnie, they’ve caught on to texting and Zoom calls, so she’s only a few buttons away. Perhaps you want to keep it old school and write letters. 

If you live close to your grandparents, take the time to go for walks with them, stop by and offer to cook their dinner, make sure they don’t have any leaky faucets or blown bulbs that you could patch up for them. Love them in the little things too—you’ll be thankful you did.

This Thanksgiving, take note of the tiniest details–the flannel they wear, the prayers they pray, the way their hands cut the turkey. Soak it up, store it in your brain, and remember that their hearts need who you are this holiday season.

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/yacobchuk