I have just returned from a visit to my daughter, son -in-law and grandson, which was followed by a two day stay with my elderly father so in the space of just a few days I have moved from spending time with the youngest in our family to the oldest. As I drove home yesterday I had the space to reflect on the visit and consider just how alike they are.
The main thing they have in common is their larger than life personalities and great sense of humour; Louis has just grasped the concept of a joke and in particular the , “Why did the chicken cross the road?” variety which he finds endlessly amusing and we all end up laughing along at his sheer enjoyment. My father is more of a raconteur, telling me all the funny things that have happened to him since we were last together just a couple of months ago. Both like to be centre stage, to have an appreciative audience and repeat themselves regularly. Most importantly time spent with either of them is uplifting, lightens the soul and lifts the spirits.
I walked in parks with both of them, Louis taking his time crossing and recrossing the path to look at every new leaf, flower, snail and stick. Dad moves more slowly these days but regularly walks a mile or two around the lake in his home town. He bundled up some stale bread so that I could feed the ducks and for just a while I was the child again, after being the responsible grandparent throughout the previous days. It was somewhat surreal but reassuring too.
Both the old man and the young boy paid no heed to time, they are not clock watching like those of us in the middle years. They look for food when they feel hungry, they rest when they are tired, they feel no guilt at sitting in front of a favourite TV show or reaching for their books, music or toys. Being with them was a good lesson, a reminder that now that I am retired I, too, should learn to let go of watching the time and rather follow my body and my instincts.
Perhaps the greatest thing they both share is a lack of inhibition, their love is shown freely with hugs and cuddles; they laugh easily and cry when upset without any embarrassment for showing that emotion. They feel no necessity to hide what they are feeling, Louis has not learned yet that the world asks us to show one face even when we feel differently and my Dad is now too old to care what anyone thinks and shows his pleasure or anger, love or sorrow as he experiences it. You have to wonder just what happens us to all as we move from childhood to adulthood and what it does to us to be forever conforming? At least I can see that an advantage of age is the shedding of the veneer and the re emergence of the child within.