Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Slowing down

Last night, Ron and I went for a walk. I started out at a quick pace, and he laughed as he caught up with me. Ron's a full 10 inches taller than I am, so it's not often that I get ahead of him.

We were only gone for about half an hour, not wanting to leave Simon as the babysitter for long, especially so close to bedtime. We talked about his work, my work, the kids, the neighborhood, and looked at old houses I hadn't seen or noticed since we moved here. The weather was perfect for the walk, as I suspect a lot of the upcoming nights will be.

As a kid, I recall always having to jog to keep up with my father when we walked together, particularly on vacations to historical monuments, battlefields, and restored sites. He was purposeful in each step, always knowing exactly where he was going and always wanting to be there right that very moment. In spite of my efforts to keep up, he generally kept pace a few yards ahead of the rest of us, and that's how I see him in my memories of those vacations: from behind.

When Dad was dying, particularly at the very end, the last few weeks, he became more contemplative. Dad was always impulsive, but he was also thoughtful, as in full of thought, always thinking, always wondering, curious, interested, never bored. Once he accepted that death was near, he found a sense of peace for which I think we were all grateful. One of my siblings asked him what he was thinking about then. Dad said, "I'm just glad I get to be the first to go, the first to find out what's on that side." Still purposeful, still curious, still a few paces ahead of us all.

I turned 40 a few days ago. I know it's a milestone, but I don't feel 40, so it wasn't a big deal to me. It wasn't traumatic or even a little unsettling, and, for the most part, it hasn't even been cause for me to be particularly contemplative. It's just another year, not the end of my life.

This afternoon, an elderly couple passed in front of my screened-in porch where I've been working this afternoon. She was using a wheeled walker. He was gently resting his hand on her arm as they strolled, looking as though they felt they have all the time in the world left. Or perhaps little enough of it that hurrying seems a little excessive at this point. His hair was white. Hers was colored a dark reddish-brown. And they appeared to still have plenty to say to each other. And I thought, "That could be Ron and me in another 40 years." Or at least I hope it is.

Years ago, when Simon wasn't even 3 yet and Owen was a newborn, I took them to the library for story hour. On the way home, it began to rain. I had an umbrella, but when the rain turned into a downpour, I struggled to hold Simon, push the stroller, and keep the umbrella above us all. Finally, I gave up and put the umbrella away. As I did, a neighbor drove by and offered me a ride home. At that point, I was only about a block away from our house, and I said no thanks. I was laughing by then and realizing that rain was just rain and that I needed to slow down and just enjoy the moment, regardless of how wet we were all getting. It was the first time as a mother that I felt that way, and it was magnificent.

I'm in a hurry for a lot of things. I don't like being late to church or to concerts or movies or dinner at a friend's house. But I'm also perfectly fine with slowing down now and then.

I loved my father's hurry. I loved watching him so eager for the next thing that he rushed to get there. And while I know I take after him in many ways, I think I'll be doing my best these next 40 years or so to take my life a little slower. I don't want to miss a thing. I have ahead of me too many walks next to my husband and hand in hand with my kids.


Ron said...

I delivered newspapers for 8 years as a boy and quickly learned that fighting the elements--be they snow, ice, rain, sun, or humidity--was generally pointless. Much better to simply appreciate the intensity of each. Some were more enjoyable than others. My favorite was rain.

Lyssa said...

Dave is always walking ahead of me. You'd think since I actually have longer legs than him that we'd be about even, but no. You should have seen us in Europe, I was always running trying to keep up. I would always tell him to slow down, but he said that he couldn't walk any slower. He's gotten better since we've had Christian, somehow walking with a stroller keeps us at the same pace.

My dad was also always walking ahead of us. Whenever we went shopping with him, he would always run from the car to store. I think it was his idea of exercise or he was trying to get rid of us, I'm not sure. As he's gotten older he's stopped doing that and it makes me a little sad. A few years ago for the fourth of July we were going to watch fireworks and my dad always wants to be as close as possible, but he wasn't feeling well and stopped a lot farther away then he would have normally. It really freaked me out and made me realize that my dad is in fact an old man now. Maybe that's it, maybe he's just slowing down.

Dean said...

Good stuff. Keep it coming.

Anonymous said...

This made me cry- Susan