Thursday, October 31, 2013

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

My 89-year-old mother’s interest in people is as keen as ever. I’m guessing those who care about others live longer. If they don’t, their lives, whatever the length, are fuller.

My Mom looks at a trip to the dentist as a chance to catch up with Linda, her hygienist. I've long heard stories about Linda, who earned her degree at night and married, happily, later in life. I knew Linda’s neighborhood retained power during Superstorm Sandy, and she invited relatives from far and wide to share her home.

During a recent visit to New Jersey, I chauffeured my mother to appointments and errands and was able to meet and re-meet people about whom my mom is full of anecdotes and high praise. Linda claims my mother is her favorite patient, and their mutual-admiration society is something to see.

At the cardiologist’s office, my mother introduces me to Shannon, her favorite technician. My mom’s also very fond of Erin and every other technician in the place.

Even a correct and businesslike eye doctor can’t hold out against my mother’s interest. He tells her his daughter recently won a Rockefeller Grant. A Rockefeller Grant! My mom is thrilled.

My mom’s hairdresser, who was born in Korea, treats my mother as tenderly as she’d treat her own.  In exchange, my mother, as a stand-in for Sarah's far-away parents, praises her business skills and work ethic.

I don’t know about you, but in my day-to-day life, I rush through errands and obligations and rarely make time to connect with shopkeepers, cashiers, and caregivers. The week I spent ferrying my mother to appointments showed me that asking after others enriches the asker.

Next time I see my dental hygienist, I want details about her daughter's last trip to the Philippines. 


Liz Flaherty said...

This is such a great thing. My mother-in-law used to be that way and I still miss the person she was.

And I'm so glad you liked my book--you made my morning!

Patricia Rickrode w/a Jansen Schmidt said...

Your mother sounds like a wonderful woman, taking time to learn the little things and REMEMBERING them. That's the key - remembering.

I shall make it a point to me more aware and mindful myself.

Thanks for the reminder.

Patricia Rickrode
w/a Jansen Schmidt

Coleen Patrick said...

There's a quote that I'm not remembering right now, but it's something about taking interest in others. I guess that's the important part of it, because it allows for the opportunity for connection. Your mom sounds amazing, Pat. :) I'm thinking of all those mind games the experts recommend as we get older--to sharpen our brain. I think your mom has it right--fostering and maintaining an interest and connection with real people sounds like the organic way to keep our minds (and hearts) healthy.

Lark Howard said...

My mother-in-law knows EVERYONE--waitresses/managers in the restaurants they frequent (they go out for lunch and dinner every day), the people in their doctors offices, at church, stores. Going places with Mary is always fun and enlightening, although usually not quick.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pat,

Your mother reminds me of mine - she's always establishing personal relationships with personnel in drug stores, doctor's offices, supermarkets, etc. Keep in mind that these very same people really like your mother and really do enjoy seeing her. That's the key, I think. It's not a phony "customer-client" relationship. As our world becomes ever so more anonymous due to technology we need these little exchanges to really keep us connected to life.

- Patrick

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Liz!
As a writer, you can give a fictional character like Early your late mother-in-law's gift of connecting with people. In a that way, your mother-in-law's spirit lives on.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Patricia/Jansen,
Yes, REMEMBERING is key. My mom is good at keeping straight both the the details and highlights of people's lives. Some people do crossword puzzles and Sudoku to keep their brains active; my mom remembers whose son is finishing graduate school this year and whose daughter is working in Kenya.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Coleen,
You said it better than I could. Yes, I think my mom's interest in others keeps her going. And, despite her mild heart attack, her heart's big and beats for other people.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Lark,
Mary sounds like a lot of fun. No, going places with her wouldn't be quick, but I'll bet you pick up a story idea, a character trait, or even a plot twist when you're out with her.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Patrick,
Your mother and mine protect their health via all those little exchanges, and you're right, there's nothing phony and self-serving about any of them. In a way, our mothers create a safety nets of people who will look out for them because they care about them.

Karen McFarland said...

I see you've put up that hot picture of you already Pat! lol. :)

Hey, when you get older, each outing is a milestone. Any connection with others is a major stimulus. Your Mom is an amazing person. The fact that she has NOT become narcisstic, which would be normal for someone her age, is wonderful. She is able to share a little part of her life and is still very interested in others. That's what life is all about. :)

Alarna Rose Gray said...

I'm hoping I learn to master the art of conversation by that age! It always feels insanely nosey to me, to ask people about their life. I really admire the people who take the time to care, and do so, effortlessly...

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

You always make me laugh, Karen.

You make me think, too, and your comment about my mom not becoming wrapped up in herself is important. In some ways she's in survival mode and has stopped fretting that she can't get out to buy greeting cards and stamps. When she encounters someone she cares about, though, she gives that person a hundred percent of her attention.

You, too, manage to keep sharing a little part of your life and remain very interested in others.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Alarna,
My mom's questions are prompted by genuine interest, and, yes, they seem effortless.

If the person who questions me is older than, say, 75, my shields usually don't go up, but
I've been known to bristle when a supermarket check-out clerk asks me how I plan to prepare vegetables or a protein I'm buying. My initial reaction is to shy away from what I perceive as nosiness. I have to remind myself to relax and ease into the conversation.