They talked about the things that made them feel gratitude - children, grandchildren, a beautiful sky, life itself.
As they did, the elderly gathered for the weekly “Coffee and Conversation” at the Town of Southampton Senior Center, seemed like general weight of the world lifted just a little bit.
“You sort of forget about the bad things when you take the time to talk about the good things,” said Dorothy DeCicco, 94, of East Quogue, who attends the event in Hampton Bays regularly.
Steve Gregory, who is over 60 himself and a retired psychiatric nurse, has been moderating the sessions at the center for a couple of months. He said the idea behind it was to bring people of the same age and with the same troubles together to talk, which helps relieve stress and mends a worrisome mind.
He said he started the group with stress management exercises, then started working on communication skills, as he realized many of the people attended were dealing with stressful relationships with their adult children.
Then a couple of weeks ago, Gregory said he asked the group to discuss their happy memories.
“The faces just became bright,” he said. “They shed 20 years.”
Now, the group focuses mainly on conversation, though Gregory squeezes in a deeper lesson. On Thursday, the group discussed gratitude, but rather than just share thoughts, Gregory encouraged the 10 gathered to think of expressing gratitude as a practice to call on in a stressful situation.
A few of them had experienced bad health and been close to death, and were thankful just to be around.
“I was thankful when I woke up this morning,” said DeCicco, who experienced a difficult childbirth many years ago and almost lost her own life and her baby’s. But on Thursday she was thankful for a smaller feat: “the deer had not eaten my flowers.”
Ann Pavlovsky, 69, moved to Hampton Bays from Florida eight years ago to be closer to her daughter and her new granddaughter. A few years ago, she suffered a stroke that left her in the hospital for 19 months.
She said she was grateful for her husband, who visited her so often hospital staff gave him a key to get in after hours, and for her daughter and son-in-law who always make sure she feels like a part of their family.
“And I’m grateful for the friends I have here at the center,” she said, grabbing the hand of the woman who sat next to her. “I’m indebted to them because it gives me an out. I get up in the morning and I know I’m going to be around friends.”
Gregory said it has been a beautiful experience watching the men and women in the group relate to one another.
“It’s more than simple conversation,” he said. “It’s hearts speaking to hearts.”