My ‘year of lasts’ is officially underway
I was watching my son’s soccer game last night and the old Al Stewart tune, “Time Passages,” kept running through my head:
Well I’m not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short and the days too fast
The things you lean on, are the things that don’t last
Well it’s just now and then, my line gets cast into these
And so it started last night. It continues this week, and will keep coming around until August 2016. It’s what I’ve been calling the “year of lasts.”
My 17-year-old son Liam is entering his senior year of high school at Tuscola. He’s our youngest, and for 23 years (the age of my oldest child) I have been contemplating this passage, the coming empty nest, the end of homework and nightly family dinners and sporting events and the energy and laughter and turmoil that children bring into your lives on a daily basis as you raise them.
When Lori and I became engaged, she wanted us to get married in the Catholic Church. In order for that to happen with my non-Catholic self, we had to attend one of those marriage encounter weekends where we would talk about our expectations and plans and thoughts about the future.
One of the questions posed to us: what do you think about children, and how many do you want to have? Everyone in the group went their separate ways to write down their thoughts, and then we came back together and discussed our answers in a group setting of 10 or 12 couples.
My answer: “maybe one.” I am a child of a broken home and grew up in a time and a place where divorce and violence and shattered family lives were littered about like rotting apples falling from a tree. I had no illusions about the traditional family unit.
Lori, on the other hand, had written down “eight” or “10” or something like that. I can’t remember exactly how many children she imagined in our future family, but it was so large and so far from my “maybe one” as to prompt the retreat leader to let us know we had some negotiating to do.
But my fears of marriage and parenthood were both, as it turned out, more about my own insecurities than anything else. Once our first child came along and I held her while in the hospital, all those worries melted away. I was on board for as many as Lori wanted, and my skittish attitude toward fatherhood was replaced immediately by a longing to spend as much time with my children as possible. To say I’ve reveled in being a father over the last 23 years would be an understatement of momentous proportions.
And now that era of daily contact parenting is drawing to a close. Last night was the first soccer game of the last high school soccer season. Today is the first day of school for the last year. There will be a long list of lasts from now until August 2016, when I accompany my last child to college.
I remember walking my daughters Megan and Hannah to school from our downtown Waynesville office on Hannah’s first day at Central Elementary. We laughed and took pictures and did everything we could to ease Hannah’s anxiety, as parents do at times like that. Seems like yesterday.
I’m sentimental, but there’s really only one way to approach this year: treat it like the dessert after a 23-year feast, like an ice-cold beer after a 5-mile run, like a celebratory victory lap of parenting. Because then it all changes. Time passages.