Changing of the Guard

The cold air lifted and the clouds parted, casting a warm glow of sunshine on the new blossoms below. I drove down the familiar road to find that with the bitter snows, a neighbor’s Brittany Spaniel had also disappeared. His dog house was boarded up and his spot in the yard vacant.

Maybe the long winter was too much for him.

A little farther down the road, the Auto Zone that replaced the movie theater where I worked in high school loomed ahead, a constant reminder of what used to be.

Much like the seasons in western Pennsylvania, change is inevitable. Despite the certainty of death, taxes, and piles of crunchy leaves, it’s not easy.

We arrived at the party and were instantly enveloped in hundreds of arms and “look how big your kids are!” from family members we hadn’t seen in years. No one explicitly stated the intent of the day;  we ate, drank, and talked as though it were just a normal family reunion, but behind every laugh was the gentle reminder that this was it.

The end. The change.

When it came time to say goodbye, lingering hugs and quiet tears were the only indication that this was the last time we would see him. Granted he was 83 and lived a full life, but it’s not easy to look a man in the eye and acknowledge that he is dying. The cancer is his kryptonite, our prayers futile.

The drive home was quiet, save for some boring interjections about tee times courtesy of my brother and husband. The kids were exhausted and quietly humming to themselves, and my dad, who was riding shotgun, was uncharacteristically quiet. Normally, he oozes road rage and entertains us with angry tirades. But even he didn’t have the energy to expend on obscenities for the Chevy Impala that lazily pulled out in front of us despite the 65 MPH speed limit.

His dad is dead.

His uncle is dying.

His mom is incapacitated in a nursing home.

He is turning 60 in four days.

He’s not the type to share, but I know my dad so well that I can read his unspoken thoughts.

One generation down. The changing of the guard.

When I had my kids, I fully expected that they would grow and we would celebrate their milestones and throw them obnoxious birthday parties. What I did not anticipate is that as they got older, so would I.

I’m not that bad at math; I realized that I would age, too, but holy hell in a hand basket does it happen quickly. I’m not talking about the wrinkles by my eyes or the extra jiggle in my wiggle. I’m talking about the fact that my dad’s eye surgery makes it near impossible for him to drive at night. That I only have one grandparent left. That my elementary school is now a church.

It’s happening.

It’s not easy to watch your family dynamic change, but when I try to ignore it, reality punches me in the face with the incessant reminder that although the days seem long, the years, they are short.

Change of Guard

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Comments

  1. Stephanie, I so could have written this right down to my dad having had to have eye surgery in the last year for tears in his retina and having trouble driving at night now. And I have no grandparents left. Trust me many days I do feel old and know I am aging right before my eyes, as well as my parents, too. I try my best not to think about it constantly, but sometimes in does creep into the back of my mind and does make me stop in my tracks even just for a few minutes.
    Janine Huldie recently posted…Soaps Relaunch Online: A Tired Mama’a ThoughtsMy Profile

    • It’s weird/sad to watch a strong person struggle with things like this, right? I used to think my dad was invincible. Sometimes being an adult SUCKS.

  2. One of the best things you’ve ever written. This had tears in my eyes.
    momseye recently posted…Project Optimism: The BikeMy Profile

  3. Jen Blevins says:

    I was not ready for that! Beautiful! <3

  4. This was gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. Pained, honest and yep, gorgeous.
    Bad Parenting Moments recently posted…Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho…My Profile

  5. Beautiful.

    I often find myself wondering where the hell the time has gone. My Dad is retiring soon. RETIRING. When the hell did that happen? I naively thought everyone would live forever, and now I find myself so scared for what might come next…

    xo
    Dani Ryan recently posted…10 reasons I enjoy mall walkingMy Profile

    • RIGHT?! You hit the nail on the head: I never expected to watch my strong father struggle with eye trouble or to turn 60 or to retire soon either. And I’m responsible or two little people and paying bills. WHEN did this happen?!

  6. P.S. I love the new look!
    Dani Ryan recently posted…10 reasons I enjoy mall walkingMy Profile

  7. This was so touching. It is so hard to allow ourselves to glimpse at what the future may hold, those visions in our minds we hope will come to fruition yet can’t be sure they will. Those are hard enough to envision, however, to stare down the reality of the inevitable can leave us paralyzed with fear. I’m sorry for the losses your family has experienced. My dad died when I was 23 years old. He didn’t get to walk me down the aisle, nor did he get to meet my kids. Cherish every moment my friend!
    littlemisswordy recently posted…It’s Like Giving Birth On Christmas Day And Having The Easter Bunny Stop By! Red Circle Days Is Out!My Profile

    • Oh, Leah, I am so sorry to hear about your dad :( I will definitely take you up on the cherishing every moment thing! Time seemed to drag on when I was, like, 9 years old waiting for my mom to take me to my friend’s house, and now that I’m the mom driving kids around, hours are just flying by. SLOW DOWN!!!

  8. Oh how beautiful this post was, Stephanie. It happens, doesn’t it? All of a sudden the reality of time and change hits us hard. Your words are a gift- both the funny and the pieces of passion you share. Time is such a gift. Lets both treasure what we have and cherish what we remember…
    Chris Carter recently posted…Devotional Diaries: Week 4My Profile

    • Thanks for your comment, Chris; I’m so glad you “get it” and didn’t perceive me as being a whiner who doesn’t appreciate the present. But yeah, it definitely just HIT me this weekend. Ouch!

  9. Flawlessly written like the pro that you are. The time goes so fast… I worry so much about my parents. They’re not young people anymore, they have such health issues, and they have seen a lot of their friends pass away. This is a very relatable post to me.

    I love the new look! I’ll come back to grab your new button asap.
    The Sadder But Wiser Girl recently posted…Is Anyone Listening???My Profile

    • Thanks so much, Sarah–you know how to stroke a girl’s ego :) It’s definitely sad to watch as the older generation continues to get older and then BAM we become the older generation. This past weekend, I attended a funeral for a man who wasn’t even FIFTY and it just broke my heart. That kind of changing of the guard just ain’t right…

  10. You did a wonderful job encapsulating the heaviness of this phenomenon, and I love the title, Changing of the Guard. Lovely piece. Hugs to you and your family.
    Amy recently posted…To My Son On His Sixth BirthdayMy Profile

  11. Heather McLain says:

    Beautifully written, and expresses so well what so many of us feel.

    • Hi, Heather!! Thanks so much for leaving our comfy spot on FB and heading over here to my crazy blog! I appreciate you reading and commenting more than you know :) Hugs!

  12. I came here today to leave a comment about how I haven’t seen you in my inbox in days and I read this and I am immediately reminded of exactly why I miss you in my inbox. This was beautifully written. Light and Love to you and your family Stephanie.
    vernette recently posted…Not broken…just bentMy Profile

  13. I am just sending you loads of hugs. I do get this, and you described it all so beautifully. And I know sometimes you just need hugs…and a bottle of wine and a friend to drink it with. I’m on my way.
    Meredith recently posted…The Dishes Can Wait; It’s Time to Find the Funny!My Profile

  14. This has been on my mind recently, as well. First of all, I never thought I’d actually GET older (crazy right?) and last year we lost both fathers, one mother, AND a sister. Can you say “Holy Mary Mother of Jesus!” Talk about time to revaluate your life and the time you have left!!! Thanks for sharing what I KNOW is a difficult time. Now, I have to go back to bed and cry some more. Pass the tissues please.
    Cheryl Nicholl recently posted…Who Dat Dog and Where He Eat?My Profile

  15. Wow! This was amazingly written Stephanie! I kept thinking about that whole “changing of the guard” concept. What a perfect analogy for this situation. I keep trying to put my finger on why I liked this post so much. I can’t quite pinpoint it but I think it’s because it contains layers. I don’t know if you can have layers in writing but if you can this story has layers and I liked opening up every paragraph.
    motherhoodisanart recently posted…My Own Little Pieces of Art HistoryMy Profile

  16. Also, I love the new look of the page! Did you do this or did someone do it for you??
    motherhoodisanart recently posted…My Own Little Pieces of Art HistoryMy Profile

    • Heck no I didn’t do this myself!!! I’ve got zero skill when it comes to coding! Andrea Boring (AK Designs, her button is at the bottom of my page) and crew redesigned this bad boy. So happy you like it! THANK YOU!

  17. Christie says:

    It’s as if you wrote this to me. I can relate for so many reasons. Getting older is HARD. Realizing our parents aren’t as “young” as they once were. Realizing we aren’t as young as we once were. Realizing that our kids will be grown up in the blink of an eye. All of it is tough. Love to you and your family…keep your chin up and enjoy right now because, before you know it, right now will be little more than a memory.

    • You’re absolutely right, Christie. Live in the present, right?!

      P.S. SOOO nice to see your name again ;) Hope your dad is feeling better. xo

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