One of the most meaningful ways you can show gratitude to a special person in your life this holiday season isn't anything you can buy at the mall or online. It's actually very inexpensive - it just requires your time, curiosity and attention.
That's the philosophy behind National Day of Listening, an informal holiday that encourages people to audio record conversations with loved ones. The initiative, held the day after Thanksgiving, was developed five years ago by StoryCorps as an alternative to the Black Friday shopping frenzy.
As StoryCorps founder Dave Isay says, "you find wisdom and poetry" in the words of regular folks. By recording these conversations, you can capture the voice, spirit and lessons of precious people in your life.
"It's really about two people connecting with each other," Isay said.
For Babette Brooks, who is featured in StoryCorps' new book, "Ties That Bind: Stories of Love & Gratitude from the First Ten Years of StoryCorps," participating in StoryCorps was a way to celebrate her father's life and the friendship she developed during his battle with Alzheimer's.
Sharing her tale as a way to inspire others to preserve a loved one's memories, Ms. Brooks admits there was a lot of friction between her and her dad, Charles, growing up.
"We were cut from a different cloth," she remarks, noting she's fun-loving, laid-back and doesn't mind a bit of chaos in her life.
While her father did have a fun side - a zest for life she really connected to -- he was a real perfectionist, too. A proud Marine and hard worker whose favorite tool was the level, he was meticulous about everything -- his appearance, his house, his yard.
"I loved my father tremendously," the 57-year-old says. "Despite all the head-butting, all I wanted to do was please him."
Yet, as a girl, she always was in trouble with him.
"I had a big sense of adventure and a lot of energy," Ms. Brooks recalls. "My mother would make these lists of the things I did wrong -- all my day's crimes -- and save them for when my father would come home from work. He would turn positively livid."
Because of the personality clash, Ms. Brooks moved out the first chance she could, at age 18.
But in 1996, she wound up back where she started, living next door to her parents in her grandmother's former home.
Around the same time, her father started showing early signs of Alzheimer's. Becoming confused and unable to perform ordinary tasks, he began to create a lot of disorder in the house. It was difficult for her mother, who's very orderly and "likes things just so," to cope with this new behavior.
As a result of her mother's "inability to bend," her father started to spend more time with Ms. Brooks, who couldn't care less if he left a mess.
Enjoying each other's company, the two spent a lot of time on his back porch, eating pistachio nuts, sharing a beer, shooting the breeze.
"He became so easy to talk to," Ms. Brooks remembers. "I could tell him my secrets."
When he died in 2008, at age 83, she lost more than a father -- she lost a dear friend.
"I wouldn't trade those 12 years for anything," she says. "Except I wish the price to pay for them wasn't so high."