Monday, March 05, 2007

The Restaurant

The teenagers were sitting at various tables in the restaurant. They were full of life, a little on the loud side, but very excited. I couldn’t help but notice them as I waited for the rest of my friends to arrive for our monthly get together. The chaperones or teenagers with them, were keeping them in line, so to speak, in case they should get too loud or be inappropriate in some way. I couldn’t help but notice their excitement: their wide eyes, their smiles, their eagerness to be not only in the restaurant, but fully listening to every word, as if it were the greatest day of their life. There wasn’t any part of the conversation that didn’t hold their attention. When it was their turn to talk, they did so eagerly, asking questions of the person sitting across from them and enjoying their food.

There was a stark contrast between these teenagers and the other patrons in the restaurant. With the other patrons you could tell, even at a distance, who was engaged in the conversation and who was not. Some people did all of the talking while some people did all of the listening. At times, some of them looked engaged in the conversation and at other times, not so much. There seemed to be no real order to their conversation and no real flow.

But when I looked at these teenagers, there was no doubt that they were interested in the conversation. Not only were they interested, but they were asking a lot of questions, eagerly awaiting their answers. Once they answered the question, it would remind them of another similar experience and they would tell the story with such vigor, as if it were happening for the very first time. You could just feel the energy.

As I watched them, I couldn’t help but think how totally engaged they were in the moment. They were living fully in every second at the restaurant. I thought back to my own life, and how when I was younger, I often fantasized about how it would be to have my first house, then my first "new" house and the list goes on and on. Once I purchased the house, then my thoughts would shift to decorating the house. Of all of the different types of furniture I would like and how I wanted the rooms to feel.

And then a few years ago, when Dear Son started deteriorating, I began to remember what it was like previously, when he could walk with a walker and stand on his knees.

And then I thought back to my wedding day and how as much as I tried to take in every moment of that day, I just couldn’t. It seemed like it went so fast. I couldn’t savor it all. There were just too many things happening on that day that warranted my attention.

As I looked back over the various times in my life, I realized that I was busy anticipating the future or looking over the past, but the present would sometimes escape me. And yet, here were these teenagers in the restaurant, fully engaged in the moment. As you might have guessed by now, these were Special Education students out with other students in the class. They spoke eagerly with the “normal” students. I couldn’t help but think that they got it right. Not just today, but every day. They live absolutely every day, “in the moment”.

My mind shifted to my own Dear Son, later that evening, as he watched the cat put his paws on the fishbowl. He looked at the cat and then looked at me, eagerly waiting for the cat to “get in trouble” for having his paws on the fishbowl and eating the water plant on top. As soon as I said something to the cat, Dear Son was just full of laughter over it all.

It makes me wonder sometimes, how they got it right. Maybe it’s because we spend too much time living with our heads and they live every day from their hearts. Sometimes, it’s good to be Special Needs. After all, sometimes you have to teach the “normal” people a good lesson.


Dreaming again said...

I feel pity for the people who pity my life.

They will never fully understand the joys of my life.

Awesome Mom said...

I really think that being more in the moment has been the biggest mental shift that I have made since becoming a parent. I had a chance to work with teenagers shortly after Evan was born and I was just blown away by them, the raw potential, the dreams of the future. In contrast with me who had made all the big choices they were facing and was now busy spending all day with a being that knew nothing of the future, he was all about the now.

Chris and Vic said...

My son, too, is so un-self-conscious and so "innocent," not wily, not able to play games and strategize in relationships. It is very refreshing---in the same way that your observations in the restaurant are refreshing. Everything is out in the open and there are no secret agendas. No NEED to be witty/brilliant. To me it is a little like the beauty of the Amish--plain and unadorned and unaffected is really quite beautiful, and serene.
Yes, a lesson for all of us who groove on/wanna-be the uber-sophisticated. LESS IS MORE.
Chris and Vic

Anonymous said...

My special needs brother taught me that we're not the "normal" ones...they are. They have the real meaning of it all...

Anne said...

Yes, thank you. With my two older kids I was always looking at the next milestone or how things would be in the future. With Nicky we savour every stage. Don't know if it's because he's my last or because of the DS.

jennifer said...

I swore, when I was a new mom with a fresh diagnosis of Down syndrome, that I would never say, I am a better person for it. It seemed like a platitude that I'd do well to avoid.

Well here, today, I eat my words. I AM a better person for it.

Here's to living in the moment!

neonataldoc said...

Nice post. It's good to hear some appreciation of special needs people.

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