Last week I made a cross-country plane trek to visit my family in mid-Missouri. It’s nearly impossible for me to make the trip without leaping into high gear. From the details of preparation beforehand to shuffling bags from car to flight to shuttle, by the time I arrive at my mother’s “gracious adult retirement center,” I leave skid marks.
And then I’m there. With my mother and about a hundred other folks in their eighties and nineties. At first it feels like I’m moving underwater, or I’ve become a character in a slow motion movie. My mind leaps and bucks at being so tethered. It seeks a job.
It turns out the major league baseball playoffs were just the thing: My hometown is right smack dab in between St. Louis, home of the Cardinals, and Kansas City, home of the Royals. Both had made it to the very last round. Go Cardinals! I heard as I arrived to a “beer,” peanuts and baseball hats party.
Wait. Not looking so good for the Cardinals. Now Go Royals! The slow pace of baseball was perfect for me and my new peer group.
Once I began to adjust, I kinda liked the slow-mo way of being. A lot. Yes, there was a long line for the elevator, and we had to take it in batches, since the walkers took up a fair amount of space. And then there was the confusion when I assumed that the maroon walker was my mother’s. (This was before I noticed the other twenty or so like it. How was I to know that one with the curly fuscia ribbon wasn’t hers?)
But. Once my mind had a good dose of Slow Mo, things just got better and better.
On our Sunday drive, we ended up at a nature sanctuary near the river. The trees on the bluff were in full regalia. That’s what I thought we’d taken our Sunday drive to see. But then, in the spirit of Slow Mo, we stopped the car. Rolled down the window. Our nostalgic chatter died away. In its place, the caws and shrieks and lilting of hundreds of birds. Egrets on the right. Dozens of water birds on the swamp. A baby eagle swooped toward some geese. We moved the car a mile. Stopped again. Quiet. Birdsounds. Again and again. For two or three hours, we watched birds ride the dusk into the wetlands. As the skies turned purple and mauve, about a thousand red-wing blackbirds swooped over the car to their evening gathering spot.
“This is like I hope heaven is,” my mother said.
“I never did this when I could drive,” she added. “I usually just went to the mall.”
I wanted to slow the motion down even further, to stop the clock, to stay there in the heaven of the true Heartland with my beloved mother.
But I had to pick something up at the mall for my flight back the next day.
The funny thing is, part of me didn’t leave. Any time I want, there it is, that Slow Mo life. And once again it’s all about the remembering.
Check your mind’s file for slow-mo moments that have taken you to your core of peace. Create a mental slide show of those images. Which ones reliably take you back to that remembering? Update the file and keep it handy.