Jessie Veeder, Published April 06 2013
Coming Home: Time marches on regardless of what you wish
I look at the calendar and fill the squares with meetings, deadlines and plans as I long for an extra weekend, one more Sunday morning to linger over coffee and pancakes before I work on checking off the lists left for another week.
I’m not sure when this happened to me exactly, except I know it sort of creeps up on all of us as we transition from a childhood where summers last lifetimes and five more minutes of recess was the most thrilling wish a teacher could grant.
Then I woke up one morning to find that five more minutes only means something when it has to do with the snooze button and absolutely nothing when it comes to taming my bed head.
I look in the mirror and trace the little laugh lines along my eyes up into the tiny wisps of gray that have begun to appear along on the edges of my hairline and I wonder how a 16-year-old could possibly be going gray at her age.
Because most days I still feel 16.
Sixteen, clueless and in love with a boy sitting across the table, pouring syrup on his pancakes.
Then the daylight finds his face, revealing his own specks of silver scattered among the dark growth of his weekend beard, and I think, “Look at that, a boy turned into a man right before my eyes!”
Then I ask him to remember our first dance, our first kiss, and the summers spent driving to the lake in his Thunderbird and what it was like to love each other then, because that love found us here, eating pancakes and laughing in our pajamas.
This year that man will have been in my life longer than he hasn’t. I say this because the thing about living with someone who’s always been there, on a place you’ve always known, next to the family that raised you is that time sneaks up on you. Gradually it cuts lines in your father’s face, erodes the creek beds, weathers the red barn and slows down your best horse. And you might not notice because you’re right there weathering and aging alongside it while countless sunsets quietly leave their mark, dangerously convincing you that you have more.
You’ll always have more.
Last week I watched as one of my high school friends walked slowly to the front of the church in our hometown to speak at his father’s funeral.
I looked at him standing before his friends and family, so brave and sturdy against the pain. I listened as his voice, strong but wavering, told us what his father meant to him, and I heard in his message not a slice of anger for time cut short but gratitude for the time he was given to learn from a man who loved him.
My friend lost his father. My friend lost his father. My friend lost his father.
It was all I could think as I was reminded that we will never again be 16 and making plans to take our parents’ cars along the back roads to the lake so we might strip down and jump in, holding our breath as we disappear into the cool water, without a thought about our world and how it spins so fast.
The inability to feel the earth move is the great mystery of youth. It’s a gift, like this life itself, that we cannot take with us as we push up against adulthood.
I step away from the mirror and think that perhaps adulthood has its own gift – the gift of accepting what a lifetime really means, the memories we keep and the understanding that those memories are as close to forever as any human gets.
And no amount of wishes can change the clock or stop the sun from setting on a day we were never promised in the first place, so we might as well stop with the wishing and carry on, whole-heartedly, with the living.
This column was written exclusively for The Forum.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.