On Sunday, my dad turned eighty-six years old. We held a small family party for him at our house, which is a little trickier than it used to be, because he can’t walk. We had dinner in the garden, rolling his chair down the brick path and right up to the table. It was a treat for all of us, because we usually have to visit him at the nursing home where he lives.
It’s hard for me to imagine that a time will come when dad won’t be here anymore. We’re just so comfortable together. We hug and kiss each other goodbye every single day. Even the switch in our roles has been an easy, if poignant, transition. Many of the things that my father used to do for me as a child, I now do for him. I’ll brush his hair, or wash his face with a warm cloth. I’ll fetch him a sweater, or put his shoes on him. He’s okay with it, too. We’re in such a smooth routine, it almost allows me to deny the fact that someday, I’ll have to let him go. It makes me want to hold onto him for dear life.
But life is all about letting go. From the time our children start to walk, they begin to proclaim their independence. After a few months of tottering around on shaky legs, all they want to do is to explore their world. They alternate between pushing you away and then clinging to you as if the house was on fire. It can make your head spin, this back and forthness of their growing up.
We are all, both young and old, in a constant state of change. It’s not a comfortable thought for someone like me who doesn’t enjoy transitions. But there is one way to make life stand still for a moment. And that is to just stop right in the middle of whatever you’re doing, and look around you. Pay attention to what’s happening, and realize that this is your life moving along, small moment by small moment.
Whether you’re just growing up or busy raising children, it can feel like it’s taking forever. But one day, you look back, and it seems that it only took about five minutes. And if we’re lucky, we realize that all the little moments in our lives, like sitting around the supper table on a warm summer night, or helping a tired child get ready for bed, were the ones that were the most important in the end. And then it doesn’t matter what you grew up to be, or if your child is a good athlete, or is terrible in math. What counts is that you have a precious chain of many moments, where you were fully aware that they were, and are, the blessings that make up a life.