My youngest graduated from high school last week. She spent the whole weekend at grad parties. Hers isn’t until July; we like to drag out our celebrations. The celebrating helps temper the feelings of apprehension, the fear of the unknown as she gets ready for college. Yes, she’s excited about her next steps, but she is also full of natural anxiety. Change is hard. Every. Single. Time.
Change is hard for all of us and it doesn’t get any easier. For the first time since our newlywed days, my husband and I will be the only two at the dinner table. Unless you count the dog. He makes himself a dinner guest no matter what, but he’s not much of a conversationalist.
The house will be much quieter — although the bird, a loud cockatiel will fill in gaps with a certain guaranteed screeching from time to time and the ol’ dog will bark when he wants attention. I suspect the dishes will almost always be put into the dishwasher instead of being left all around the kitchen. The drier won’t provide extra storage for our daughters’ clothing and we probably won’t have to run the washing machine twice because someone forgot their clothes in there for days on end. We won’t be tripping over shoes or trying to stay awake until a kid walks through the door late at night, safe and sound.
We’ll travel. A lot. At least that’s what we tell ourselves. Truth is, both of us still work and our schedules are a little bit on the looney-tunes side. But maybe we’ll take more weekends away. Maybe we’ll explore more — even if it’s only to Benicia or other parts of the Bay Area, the place where we call home.
We plan to start scaling back. Downsizing, as they say. No more need for that portable crib or high chair (just how long did we think we needed to keep those?). And we probably can donate all the art supplies and toys stuffed into the hall closet. Cleaning out over 20 years of collecting seems daunting, at best, but we have a bit of time now.
Whatever we do, I have a sense of urgency about it. This week, I lost one of my first cousins. He was the first among the first cousins to die. From cancer. It feels like everyone I lose, I lose to that disease. He was 74, the same age as my dad. I’ll be 60 next year — 74 seems like a hop, skip, and a jump away. It’s become pretty clear that intense living has to happen in every moment because we simply don’t know how many moments we have left.
Meanwhile, we also welcomed a new baby into the family this year and will get to meet her at the graduation party. The yin and yang of life are remarkable, but only when you stop to notice them and their interconnectedness, otherwise they slip by you in between breaths. I’ve thought quite a bit about our niece and her husband who became a family with that last contraction — and about their sleepless nights that will be their norm from now on.
Little can we anticipate or prepare for most of the changes in our lives. Change by change we are transformed. In this way, our lives take shape. I keep searching for the secrets that will make the path smoother, but all I keep coming up with is to stay awake, to keep noticing and marking the changes, as much as possible. As they say, change is the only constant in life. Bring it on. Ready or not.