Go for the “Gusto” in Life

There is a lot to be said about living a life full of zeal and soaking up the life that you’re given.  This past weekend, I was at Lake of the Ozarks (aka the “Redneck Riviera”) with my friend Mary and her 8 year old son Zane.  We stayed with her in-laws, Gary and Judy, at their home.  We took the train on Friday morning and by noon we were hopping off the train and being ushered in to Gary’s and Judy’s car in a whirlwind of excitement.  Omaw and PawPaw were happy to see their only grandchild and Mary and I were happy to have a weekend of friend time together.  She’s an artist and their house is under construction (her hubby stayed behind to deal with the construction) so she was in need of a place to get some “head space”.  I am a teacher and this weekend was my “calm before the storm” because school starts in less than 2 weeks.

The boat dock
The boat dock

Judy and Gary are very kind, charming people who are full of life and energy.  Judy is a retired middle school teacher and Gary is retired from owning his own company (and I later found out he was once in the Army as well).  Gary has Parkinson’s disease, but that doesn’t stop him from doing what he wants to do.  Although his body is misshapen from the disease and he has trouble getting around and is on a lot of medication, he still has this larger than life charisma and charm to him.  He gets out on his boat dock every day and can drive his speed boat and give you an hour long tour of the mansion laden lakeside (I dubbed the tour “The Great Gatsby on the Lake”).  He rides his jet ski, fishes with his grandson and grills a mean chicken, onion, pineapple kabob.  I was surprised by his agility this weekend when I asked him where I could find a plate for my toast.  I was standing behind him and he was near the cabinet.  Before I finished my sentence, he threw open the cabinet, grabbed  the heavy Fiesta-ware plate, lifted it with both hands behind his head and over to me.  I wasn’t expecting that at all and said, “Uh, thanks,” as he stood there laughing.

Judy is equally as charismatic and charming and as spry as someone half her age.  While Gary messed around on the boat or the jet ski, Judy was in her kayak (she kayaks every day) pulling Zane and a neighbor kid on a raft behind her.  She and Gary hung out on the boat dock with the kids for hours, zipping in and out of the kayaks, the jet ski, the floats and also scheduling a winter to Australia using their iPad.  Later that evening, they took the kids to play a round of 9 holes of golf and then out to dinner.  On the other hand, Mary and I were drained and had headaches and upset stomachs and fell asleep in our rooms for 2 hours after a fattening meal of potato skins and pizza.  Around 8:30, Judy, Gary & Zane came back home and got us up and going and we played Uno and chatted away as Judy led Gary through his yoga and stretching exercises for the night before they went to bed.  Mary, Zane and I again crashed into our beds and slept in late the next morning, unable to keep up with the 2 of them.

In our youth obsessed culture, we tend to overlook people who have lived longer than us have more experience and (hopefully) more wisdom, guidance and interesting stories to share.  We don’t expect people who are in the winter season of their lives to have so much excitement and enthusiasm for their lives.  We get so wrapped up in the petty dramas of daily life and try to control their outcomes that we forget there should always be a space in our lives to play and to explore and to travel and to laugh.  I think these positive behaviors are a benefit of aging that for whatever reason we are afraid to look into as a culture because we don’t want to think of the final outcome of our physical bodies.  Judy’s and Gary’s intensity may seem overwhelming, and maybe to some out there it is, but for whatever reason this weekend their zeal for entertaining us while also letting us go on 2 hour long walks or reading books or taking us on a tour of the countryside really grounded me.  I’ve had a full but hectic summer and there are things that are stressing me out like a tight budget, trying to sell my old house and preparing for school to name a few.  But now, I’m reenergized by their energy and sense of play.

But for me personally, too much zeal can be an overkill, and I’m one who appreciates a little bit of solitude on a regular basis.  So, it was nice when I had a “zen” moment where I got a little bit of alone time to read and to write while the rest of them went on a bike ride.  I sat in the sun and listened to the waves break on the shoreline.  It felt like I had a moment to hit the “pause button” and allow in the ebb to the flow of that vital energy.

The Lake
The Lake

And just when I was “ebbing,” the flow came back in the form of Mary and Zane coming up to me with a 1970s Cher cover album.  They were laughing and asking me if I could hear the music blaring from the garage into the street.  Zane smiled and said, “C’mon, Megan, you gotta hear it!” and I started laughing and obediently followed.  Sure enough, Cher was singing away, her voice being pumped out of a circa 1980s record player with a dual cassette player underneath.  Old records from Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall,” to Henry Mancini were stacked on a shelf.  Mary shrugged her shoulder and laughed and said that this is what her in-laws do whenever the moment feels right.  Judy and Gary were nowhere in sight and Zane switched the LP to fast track and Cher’s smooth, alto voice morphed into Alvin and the Chipmunks.  Our laughter filled the garage and Z switched it back to normal play and then he and Mary hopped on their bikes and took off down the long drive while I was left behind wondering what had just happened.  How did getting left behind in a garage listening to 1970s Cher songs and smiling become part of my weekend?

And the Beat Goes On. . .
And the Beat Goes On. . .

Even in the mundane moments of life zest and zeal can enter in at an unexpected time, making you laugh and appreciate right where you are.

On the suspension bridge out in the country
On the suspension bridge out in the country

This post is Day 27 in the 100 Day Creative Writing Challenge.  Topic:  Zeal.

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