Odd, anxious kid that I was, when the dog that I grew up with got older, I used to “practice” saying goodbye to her. I would think to myself, “What if this was the last time you’re ever going to get to pet her?” And…in those moments, I could never stop petting her until I let go of that morose notion.
Today, as I write this, another one of my dearly beloved dogs is undergoing major surgery. I have no idea what the day will bring…whether or not I did indeed pet him for the last time when I dropped him off. I pray and hope not.
Life is full of “lasts.” Last year of grade school, high school, college…last day in a house before moving…If you get married, last day of “singleness,” if you have a child, last day of being “just” a couple…And all of them go by in the blink of an eye. Some you welcome, but many…you miss.
Some you know are coming…most you do not.
“Time flies” is the cliché heard round the world. One way that we honor the passage of time in our family is that on our son Tony’s birthday, my husband and I take a photo of our boy standing next to a tree that is roughly the same age as he is. (And was a sapling that came from the house I grew up in.)
From year one…
to year 13…
…you have a visual measure of just how much time has flown. In between those years lie so many firsts—but also so many lasts. If you want a good cry, read Karen Kingsbury’s Let Me Hold You Longer that encourages us to savor those lasts. From the time that I first read it to Tony as a baby till today, I can’t get through it sans Kleenex.
An old friend of mine is a new parent, and he and I were corresponding about his new adventure. At one point he said, “Please tell me it gets easier!” and here is part of what I responded to him:
For me, it seemed like just when I was ready to lose my mind on whatever phase Tony was in…it changed. Ready to lose it over getting up in the middle of the night? Baby begins to sleep through the night. It’s never more than you can bear—and there will indeed come a time that you will look back at those sleepless nights and poopy diapers and wish for a chance to have her at that age again. As everyone says and knows—it goes by all too quickly. Enjoy it as much as you can. Savor. Absorb.
…Tony is officially an 8th grader. Doesn’t this illustrate just how damn fast time flies? His voice has changed, he’s getting hair everywhere, and his hormones like to swing his mood around enough to make me dizzy. Mike and I are having a hard time with knowing that we only—really—have a few more years that he’s “ours.” Only a few more summers to travel…only so many more days to tell him to pick up his socks and put them in the hamper…I tell ya, it’s enough to make a mom cry.
Yes…there will come a time that I will miss picking up after him. While I know this deep down, right now it seems hard to fathom.
So many lasts…mostly unknown. When it was happening, I didn’t know that it was the last time I’d be carrying him in my arms, and I don’t remember what the last bedtime story I read to him was. They just…were.
Some you know. The last “first day of school” photo will be clear. The last night before he heads off to college. Those are coming. Sooner than I am prepared for, I know.
There are other unknown lasts headed my way, as well. My son and I no longer hold hands like we used to. I don’t need to hold his hand crossing the street or in a parking lot—that time has passed. But occasionally I do find his hand in mine. And…one day…he will again be holding my hand—but for totally different reasons. Perhaps to help steady me or to reassure me in a time of need. That day is coming, too.
I recently experienced a “last” I knew was indeed a last. At the end of each school year, kids up through seventh grade enjoy “field day’—a day of team competition that is not only fun, but has the added delight of ushering in summer. Parents help run it, and I knew that this would be my last time helping with my son competing. It was a good day that culminated in the popular tug-of-war competition, and I enjoyed seeing my kid make it to the championship. When it was over, I knew to quietly exit and let him have his time without his mom being around. As I gave him a subtle wave and began to walk away, he called me over and gave me a quick kiss. What a lovely surprise. And…a lovely way to remember that “last.” So glad I was paying attention.
We recently had the privilege of seeing Carol Burnett on stage, and her closing song that so many of us know has a meaning for me that’s evolved over time. When I was a kid, it meant her show was over, and I was sad for that.
I’m so glad we had this time together,
Just to have a laugh, or sing a song.
But as an adult…
Seems we just get started and before you know it
Comes the time we have to say, ‘So long.’
I am all too aware of the deeper meaning within those lyrics. The “lasts” go by in the blink of an eye.
I think the best we can do is try our damndest to be mindful…to stop and let the moments wash over us. To stop trying to record every damn thing so we don’t see our kids grow up through a screen but rather through our very loving eyes.
Savor. Absorb. Pay attention. Enjoy. Love. Let there never be a “last” in these.