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, introspection. I don’t know how to lift the fog and inspire appreciation for the present. Witnessing time changing a family dynamic or bulldozers destroying old memories isn’t easy, but you can’t ignore it; reality punches us in the face with an incessant reminder that although the days seem long, the years, they are short.
Janine Huldie says
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.
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.
One of the best things you’ve ever written. This had tears in my eyes.
Aww, thanks Danielle!!
Jen Blevins says
I was not ready for that! Beautiful! <3
Thanks, lady 😉
Bad Parenting Moments says
This was gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. Pained, honest and yep, gorgeous.
You’re too kind, Ellen. Thank you for reading <3
Dani Ryan says
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…
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?!
Dani Ryan says
P.S. I love the new look!
Yay!! THANK YOU!
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!
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!!!
Chris Carter says
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…
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!
The Sadder But Wiser Girl says
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.
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…
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.
Thanks so much, Amy! I had a hard time putting it into words; I’m so glad you guys “get it!”
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!
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.
Nicest thing anyone has said to me in years, Vernette 😉 I appreciate your kind words and your loyalty to my crazy blog!!
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.
I love seeing your face on my blog, Meredith 😉 And my door is always open for you. And wine. <3
Cheryl Nicholl says
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.
Oh, Cheryl 🙁 I am so sorry to hear about the losses your family has been through in the last year. I’ll keep you and yours in my prayers tonight <3
Cheryl Nicholl says
You’re a sweetheart. Prayers have already been said. Just your nice thought is enough. See you tomorrow.
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.
This is one of my favorite comments, thank you 😉 You’ve made the English teacher in me so happy. Thank you for reading!!
Also, I love the new look of the page! Did you do this or did someone do it for you??
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!
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