A More Deliberate Speed

For a moment, I stopped and stared at the article. A physicist at NASA had shown how a warp drive might be possible in the real world. Using a mass equal to a Geo Metro, a spacecraft could reach the nearest stars in weeks – not decades, not years, but weeks.

Star Trek made reality. Incredible.

I checked the clock. Yeah, just about time.

“C’mon, Miss, let’s go brush your teeth.”

After a token protest, Missy’s small hands take my arm and we travel together. Step. Step. Step. Each pace deliberate, the footing carefully chosen.

It’s not the speed of light. It’s probably not even the speed of Judith Light, the TV actress. But it’s our speed. And it gets us there just fine.

This is what it’s like, living at the speed of Missy.

For those who came in late, Missy is my wife’s developmentally-disabled aunt, whom we look after. She’s my age physically, but quite a bit younger in mind and spirit. She likes red purses, loud music, frequent bowling and bedtime stories.

And because of some physical problems, she moves … well, carefully.

I won’t say clumsily. She can be very quiet and sneaky when she wants to be, to the point where we sometimes call her the family ninja. But she takes things at a slow pace, usually with one hand touching a wall, or a piece of furniture, or a nearby person for balance.

It takes a little getting used to.

After all, when you travel with Missy, you move at her tempo. That means shutting down a lifetime of instincts and conditioning. We live in a world that tells us speed is essential and faster is better; that if you haven’t started now, you’re already late. That even the stars are reachable, if we just move fast enough.

And at the holidays? Please! This is the time of year when our folklore includes an elf who can make individual deliveries to six continents in one night. Looking at the stores and parking lots, I’d say we’re doing our best to match him.

That’s not an option with Missy on your arm. Step by step, you relearn the world.

You learn to take in your surroundings. Look for obstacles. Consider routes before pursuing them.

You take the weather more seriously. Did we put on the sunscreen, grab the umbrella, bring the coats? Pay attention, because you’ll be out in it for a while.

You see faces, not just passing lumps of humanity. Especially with Missy on your arm. Her social circle is wider than mine; some days, it seems that half of Longmont knows Missy and has stopped to say “Hi.”

And you do the same. No hurry. No rush.

No need.

When I used to live in Kansas, I once noticed how different it felt to walk to work instead of driving; how I was actually seeing the neighborhoods instead of just passing through. It’s a smilar feeling now, in an even deeper downshift. You can’t avoid being part of the world instead of being apart from it, can’t help paying attention.

Especially to the wonderful person walking with you.

Missy would run if she could. I know that. But for now, she walks. And I walk with her. And together, we make pretty good traveling companions.

We may not reach the stars. But I sure feel good about our orbit.


2 Replies to “A More Deliberate Speed”

  1. Hi Scott,

    I finally was able to slow down enough to respond to your column, which I thought was beautiful. We can miss out so much on life, real life, in our endeavors to surpass the speed of light. Oh the fragrances we discover when we slow down and smell the roses.

    What a shining example you are of giving the best gift of all: the gift of yourself. Missy is very blessed to have you and Heather active in her life. As far as reaching the stars, I say the goal, the orbit you have apprehended, transcends the stars.

    Katherin Engelhard

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