Life at a Fast Toddle

31 08 2010

Aren’t toddlers fun to watch? My grandson Sebastian recently turned one. I have so much fun watching him toddle back and forth at his house, mine, the library, the park, wherever. Although his steps may be a bit wobbly, he doesn’t judge himself, hold back, or act fearful because he’s not a perfect walker. He “runs” with abandon, not worrying about whether he is going to fall or run into anything or step on anything. He just does it because he can. He is gleeful and often laughs or scrunches up his face in a delightful look that says “I’m having so much fun!” And he loves having something to carry as he toddles…a basket, a cake pan, a ball, a wooden puzzle piece…just about anything will work. It’s just the act of carrying while walking that is just so cool!

He was at my house several hours yesterday and today while his momma is at a conference and observing and being with him awakens so much in me. I am completely present with him just as I was with his momma and her sister when they were young. I sit on the floor and play with him, dance as he’s dancing, and sit in the sandbox at the park while he scoops sand and watches it fall through his fingers. His attention moves from one thing to another at mind boggling speed, but for the time he’s doing something, he’s completely focused on it.

Sebastian doesn’t fret about where his next meal is coming from or what it’s going to be. He just eats when he’s hungry and says “Nah!” or throws it when he isn’t…sounds fun, doesn’t it? He has no idea when or if he’s going to be taken on a plane, to the park, the grocery store, out for a stroller ride, on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to go downtown San Francisco, to babygym, or to see Oma (that’s me…German for “grandmother”). Everything is fun and he just rolls with it.

And oh…the dancing. A toddler isn’t self conscious and doesn’t wonder if he looks stupid when he dances. He just does it. When I turn on the Raffi CD or he hears something with a catchy beat, he just starts bouncing up and down, twirling, moving his shoulders, and getting his groove on. He can’t help himself…the boy has to dance.

At 12 months, he doesn’t have life experiences, societal influences, and the developmental “maturity” that can contribute to feeling hatred, anger, disgust, sadness, disappointment, resentment, worry, shame, or any other negative emotion. Life is all about possibility, learning, new experiences, wonder, discovery, delight, laughter, smiling, having fun, hugs and kisses, and toddling at full bore.

The more I observe Sebastian, the more I think he has it right. We can be a lot more present to the joys of life by practicing living life at a fast toddle.

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Full of Live and Living Life Fully at 77

2 04 2009

Often seniors suffer a loss of support, safety, choice, income, dignity, physical health, mental health, and value in society and their lives contract as they experience more depression, more health issues, and more invisibility. My mother doesn’t fit that mold at all; she is an example of someone who lives life fully and today I honor her as she celebrates her 77th birthday on Sunday.

It’s always challenging to think of what to get someone who has one or more of everything they could possibly want and can get it if they don’t have it. Just how many crystal vases, knick knacks, bottles of body lotion, framed photos, nightgowns, or magazine subscriptions does one person need? How often do we sit down and write a tribute to that person who has everything? Okay…so here goes, Mom.

mom-in-front-of-piano-april-2008-smaller1My Mom is like a playful teenager when she gets together with her friends at the retirement center for lunch. They giggle, tell stories on each other, and you’d swear you were back in junior high or high school. It’s just adorable and fun.

My Mom has such an active life it makes my head swim when I get her emails about all her activities. She may be playing the piano for four events over the next week and has to learn a whole new program of music to play by Tuesday. Her men’s chorus may be singing at a luncheon on Friday and have another engagement next Wednesday. They rehearse at her place every week. They have been featured in the local newspaper, include a movie star’s father, and are in constant demand for performances. And let’s not forget the church activities, going to the symphony, community activities (she was President of the community board for two years), four children, grandchildren…and much more.

My Mom had been widowed for seven years, remarried last fall, and is now back to traveling and planning a cruise. It gives me hope!

My Mom fell and broke her hip last June and despite her immediate declarations that she’d never make it out of the nursing home alive, she recovered fully and is as active as ever. You just can’t keep a live wire like her down! She was one determined and persistent patient in physical therapy and amazed them all.

My Mom always has time to talk no matter what she might be in the middle of doing (if she’s home). And just like when I was a teenager and would start a multi-hour conversation at 11 p.m. about something that was troubling me, she still takes the time to listen and be empathetic and caring. There are four of us children who have certainly lived interesting lives…the woman is a saint for listening.

My Mom has lived a lifetime of stepping outside her comfort zone to do things that required a lot of courage and chutzpah. She’s been the organist for  commencements for a large university. She’s served on boards, written newsletters, and served in other capacities for technical and scientific organizations even though she had no formal training in those areas. She once was a band director and even taught high school game night drills to the marching band. She’s taken extensive trips all over the world and even spent a month in China when it was not a tourist location. And let’s not forget that she had four children by the time she was 25 years old and the considerable patience it took to raise us included enduring listening to us all playing the piano, a stringed instrument, a band instrument, and singing in choirs. It was one noisy house! She just joined in the fun.

My Mom is compassionate to others even in the face of her own loss. She lost her father to a heart attack when she was 26 and her mother a year later to a stroke. At age 27 and with children ages 6, 4, 3, and 2, she faced the challenges of motherhood and the loss of her own parents to guide her. She spent over two years by the side of her ailing second husband who died shortly after 9/11. She spent several weeks helping my cousin who was hospitalized in another state with cancer and made my cousin feel loved and helped her recover. She was there when I had both of my children and has stood by each one of her four children as we suffered losses and cheered us as we achieved successes.

My Mom is well liked in her senior community as evidenced by the exclamatory comments I hear when I visit her. They see her as the special person she is.

So Mom, on your 77th birthday, I couldn’t think of a thing to give you because you seem to have it all. The one thing I can give you is a big THANKS for being you and for all the love you’ve shown me and others through the years. Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.