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 parts store that replaced the movie theater where I had worked in high school, a constant reminder of what used to be.
Like the abrupt beginning and ends to western Pennsylvanian seasons, 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. 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 his kryptonite, our prayers futile.
The drive home was quiet, save for some boring interjections about tee times courtesy of my 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 about “these idiotic drivers.” But even he didn’t have the energy to waste 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 turned 60.
He’s not the type to share, but I know my dad and 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.
Life. The cycle that changes everything and stops for no one. It’s a thing of beauty, to be respected, yet there are days when the air feels heavy and the beauty is lost. Laughter, prayer, inspiration. I don’t know how to lift the fog and beg everyone to appreciate the present, but there’s no use in not trying. It’s not easy watching a family dynamic change, but you can’t ignore it; reality will punch you in the face with the incessant reminder that although the days seem long, the years, they are short.