Carrying the spirit of a child


Is it possible to flourish in old age? I believe it is. I’m finding that the surprise of each new day alone is enough to help me thrive. It doesn’t take much more than to look upon the excited face of a child as they open a gift to know such wonderment.
I would be remiss not to mention my obvious limitations. I certainly don’t jump as high as I used to, or even move as fast. That said, my heart is full of thanks for each day that brings about new revelations, those things that take me further than I ever thought I could go.
It may be something as simple as seeing the sun rise or to stand in awe when I see a rainbow. At other times, it is being ushered down a difficult path or being assisted when I am at my capacity. How grateful I am for each of these experiences, let alone to be given breath and life for another day.
Our daughter said, “Look at Daddy, his pockets are bulging and he looks like a mischievous little boy. He is the cutest little man I’ve ever seen.”
I exhaled a long breath and slowly let it out. I shook my head, “He has his moments.”
As I am sure he did at a much younger age, my Sweet Al empties his pockets on the dresser to display all of his finds. After the pocketknife and “hanky” come several bent nails, a plastic cap to who knows what and several other items that I assume belong in the trash. After he cleans up, I put iodine on his scrapes and colorful bandages on his cuts.
Aldous Huxley, English novelist and critic, wrote, “The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.” That is my Sweet Al.
There is a lot to say about the way older people pace themselves. Hopefully, we operate out of years of knowledge and experience. We are blessed when we can do it hand in hand with our inner child who still enjoys a bit of wild abandon.
I enjoy watching movies with older, seasoned actors. They perform with such ease and honesty, yet display a comfort with their own curiosity. And just like a young child, they can bring meaning to something that supersedes the written words of a script.
Yesterday’s leading men were cast to make women swoon. Today, our mouths dribble more than they water over an on-screen presence. Nonetheless, we see those who portray their character through a lens that reveals who they are and how they have lived their life.
Eighty-eight-year-old Clint Eastwood, actor and director, said, “I’d like to be a bigger and more knowledgeable person 10 years from now than who I am today. I think that, for all of us, as we grow older, we must discipline ourselves to continue to expand, learn and keep our minds active and open.”
Can we flourish in our old age and even in these broken bodies? Yes, we can. Psalm 92:14 says, “They shall bear fruit in old age, they shall be fresh and flourishing.”
I have questioned, “Why am I just now learning this? Shouldn’t I have learned all of this 30 years ago? After all, 30 years ago is when I really needed to know these things.”
Apparently, I needed this lesson more now. I’m not sure I would have been receptive to welcoming wonderment back in the day. My life was too busy, too full, and too driven by achievement and acquisition. There is something to be said for scaling down, clearing out and decluttering. It almost seems like I have finally removed the obstacles that have kept me from experiencing all that I was missing in life.
I am loving the peace of this moment. My Sweet Al and I walk to the river each morning to enjoy coffee, sight nearby geese and have a simple conversation full of thanksgiving.
The children laugh at us and say, “One day, we will get you a little red wagon and you can sit in it while Daddy pulls you to the river on his tractor.”
That day is probably coming sooner than we think. When it does, I hope to still appreciate the gift of time that allows us to “go out and play.” I can hear my Sweet Al singing in the background now. “Hey, hey, oh, playmate, come out and play with me. And bring your dollies three. Climb up my apple tree. Slide down my rain barrel, into my cellar door. And we’ll be jolly friends. Forever more, more, more.”
Final brushstroke: Heavens, have we become children again? If we should be so fortunate, then yes! If ever we are to flourish at whatever the age, we know that is driven by a reveal that comes from curiosity, imagination and surprise. Whether we are 6 or 60, or 80, let us not forget to be thankful for those moments experienced as if opening a gift.
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