by Elise Seyfried
I remember reading that the legendary athlete Jim Thorpe once, as an experiment, followed a 2-year-old around, trying to do everything the toddler did (run, jump, climb, etc.) Apparently the Olympic champion could not keep up at all, and threw in the towel after about an hour.
I know just how Jim felt.
Our own 2-year-old grandson, Aiden, is down here at the shore with us for a week. I adore him and am so delighted he’s here, but keeping up with him? Not happening!
I am usually in fairly decent shape in the summer, what with running on the boardwalk in the mornings and doing yoga on the beach. But I have been no match for my little guy, whose idea of a relaxed pace is racing from room to room, nose-diving onto the sofa, climbing the stairs (and climbing and climbing). He loves the ocean. My usual surfside routine — reading a good book — is a pipe dream when Aiden arrives on the sand.
For some reason he doesn’t share his nana’s enjoyment of reclining on a chair with a novel, and so I quickly abandon Plan A in favor of Plan B: chasing him all over Rehoboth Beach. Whew!
And I am embarrassed to admit that his parents are here too, doing more than their fair share of Aiden duty. So why do I fall, exhausted, into bed every night? For heaven’s sake, my daughter-in-law Ya-Jhu is eight months pregnant, and she seems to keep up with her whirlwind of a son amazingly well. What the heck is wrong with me? Gee, you’d think I was 60 years old or something!
But here’s the thing: I AM 60 (or will be in December). The 38-year-old who juggled kids ages 10, 8, 5, 2 and newborn all day, every day, is gone, never to return. In her place? A woman whose knees ache every time she kneels down. Someone who now needs glasses not just to drive but to read anything written in smaller than 20-point type. A gal who has given up on the expensive wrinkle cream because new lines appear, magically, just about daily, no matter what.
Most of the time, I am at peace with the changes aging brings. Turning 40 was a challenge, for sure, as I still felt like a young mom (photographic evidence to the contrary). And let’s just gloss over 50! That was the watershed year that I lost my mother, Joanie, and my daughter Rose was an exchange student in faraway Thailand. Oh, and I was diagnosed as bipolar for good measure! As I recall, the mirror was the least of my problems at that point.
But in this, my 60th summer, I’ve gotten over the slight shock when a family attends a performance of our Rehoboth Summer Children’s Theatre and informs us that one of the parents used to come to the plays when he or she was a small child — and now they are bringing little ones of their own.
A few years ago that would have been quite dismaying news, just further proof that the sands of the hourglass were running out for me. Nowadays, though, I’m merely tickled that the shows seem to appeal to a new generation of vacationers. I find myself hoping that I will live to see all of my children’s children enjoy the Delaware shore that has been an annual gift to our family for 35 years now.
All around me is ample evidence that I am aging, much faster than I’d like perhaps. But it is my prayer that I will age gratefully, as well as gracefully. Savoring every sunset, as well as sunrise. Memorizing the much-loved faces of my gang, even as they grow and change. Thankful for little things, as well as big: a phone call from a dear friend, a good hair day, a piece of writing that goes well. Profoundly appreciative of every day of health for me and my husband, Steve.
As I watch Aiden build sandcastles (and as I, creakily, sit down in the sand to help him), in my mind’s eye I see Aiden’s father, Sheridan, doing the exact same thing on the same beach, 30 years ago. I look out at the beautiful ocean, waves sparkling in the morning sunlight, a wonderful constant, flowing through our lives.
And compared to the time it took for this amazing seascape to develop, and the time that hopefully stretches ahead for my grand and great-grandchildren, I know that my turning 60 is, indeed, just a drop in the bucket.
Elise Seyfried is director of spiritual Formation at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland. She is also an actress, wife, mother of five and co-author (with husband, Steve) of 15 plays for children. Her recently self-published book, “Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life,” is a collection of essays, humorous but with a spiritual focus, based on her life as a mom and church worker. The book can be purchased for $15 plus shipping through www.eliseseyfried.com.