“I feel sorry for all these poor ladies who don’t have a great grandson like I’ve got.”

Great grandson, indeed, and the first and only man to ever be on Girlfriend, We Need To Talk! Why did I break with the show’s tradition? Because this story belongs to two people, not just one, and thanks to them both, we’re able to virtually tag along.

In the middle part of the last decade, Brad was chatting with her grandmother, Joy, when he discovered that she’d never seen a mountain. He decided to fix that and maybe even help her climb one, so at 85-years-young, Joy’s adventure of visiting every national park began.

“I decided, I’ll do it. I don’t mind trying something once. You never know. If you don’t ever try, you have regrets the next day you didn’t do it.”

There are 62 national parks altogether, and Joy and Brad only have two locations left now to visit: Sequoia and Alaska. Alaska has 8 parks of its own, so they’ll be spending a lot of time up there, which is planned for this coming summer. But as much as this trip has shortened their bucket lists, it has also provided a space to address fractured families and the beauty that comes with reconnecting. Joy and Brad lost a decade of life that they didn’t get to share together, but they’re making up for it now on the road.

“I really recommend [this] for anybody who’s trying to reconcile with somebody that they care about and love. I think when you’re in a vehicle, and there’s nowhere to go, you have that time. A lot of conversations that are much needed will inevitably emerge from the silence, and I think that, good or bad, tough or easy, those are conversations that need to happen, and […] it’s all for the best in the end,” Brad stated.

All of their trips were by vehicle until they had no choice but to fly. And, you guessed it. Joy had never flown before, either.

“It’s a long way down. I kept my fingers crossed. I don’t know if it helped or not, but I did.”

Joy is turning 90 this month, but she shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, this trip has made her look visibly younger. You just have to follow their Instagram posts to see the evidence, but Brad’s watched it firsthand.

“Her coordination and balance have improved and her mobility has improved, but I see it in her eyes, as well. There’s just no getting around the healing power of Mother Nature.”

They both admit to feeling a bit emotional as their 4 years on the road draw to a close, and I think I can speak for many of their followers when I say that we’re feeling it too. Thankfully, there are plans for a book on the horizon, and I can’t wait to get a copy.

This is definitely a story of connection. It’s about the love of family, the absurdity of ageism, and the strength of the human spirit, and I feel personally blessed to have spent just a few minutes talking with Joy and Brad. I can now close my eyes at night and hear not only nature and the crackling of a wood fire but also a conversation that spans generations and reminds us all of what’s truly important in our lives.

I think Brad said it best:

“No matter how ordinary we see ourselves, we all have the ability to have an extraordinary impact on other people.”

And my biggest takeaway from Joy?

“People keep telling elderly people, You’re old. You can’t do that. That’s the worst thing they can do.”

Grandma Joy’s full interview can be heard but clicking HERE.

Also available on iHeart Radio, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever your favorite podcasts are playing.

Learn More/Follow:
Today Show Clip
Chicago Tribune Article
CBS This Morning
Girlfriend, We Need To Talk