Three events have happened to me last week that left me feeling a bit wearisome. Odd, that. Not that I seldom feel wearisome (I certainly do, and often) or that events don’t happen to me (ditto). No, odd because for days I struggled to understand why I felt so dreary and never took a moment to consider my three bumps in the road had anything in common.
It began Tuesday at work, which was one of those busy days that happen to us all and leave us searching for tiny shortcuts that will garner us a few precious extra minutes to get everything done. I found one of those shortcuts when I shunned a ramp from the loading dock to the parking lot in favor of the four-foot jump between the two. It worked, though not flawlessly. I’ve been wearing a brace on my knee since last Wednesday.
Speaking of last Wednesday, my mother called that evening to announce she would be retiring in a month. Glad news. I’ve been telling her for years it was time to hang up the nurse’s smock. She’d finally agreed. “I’m sixty-seven,” she told me. “I think it’s time I took a vacation.” But you know what? For some reason, I didn’t take the news well.
Tending to the yard took precedence that weekend. There was the garden to weed and the grass to cut and the flower beds to mulch. Also the swing set to take down. It was a sickly thing, worn by time and weather such that large clumps of rust had accumulated where polished aluminum once shined. If you’ve read Snow Day, you may know the swing set I’m talking about. It was the one in Peter’s backyard. The kids helped me take it down and load it into the back of the truck for the dump. Two kids, one wrench, a screwdriver, and a hammer. Gone.
So there I was Sunday evening, sitting on the back deck with my knee brace, an empty spot where the swing set once stood, and an almost-retired mother. Feeling…down. Way, way down. And I didn’t know why.
I looked out over the backyard. A robin was sitting on the neighbor’s fence telling the neighborhood goodnight. The frogs joined in, telling the robin good morning. The grass still had that fresh-cut smell that I will always believe heaven is filled with. I paused to consider the fact that just a few short months ago I’d sat in that very spot convinced spring would never arrive, that winter would just keep going and never yield.
It did, though. It always does. Year in and year out, forever and ever amen.
I stopped. Thought that again—Year in and year out. Forever and ever. Amen.
And then I knew what had been wrong with me.
It was time.
You see, each of my bumps in the road last week—the bum knee, the retirement, the swing set—all had in common the nature of time and our human tendency to freeze it in place.
The truth is I jumped from the loading dock rather than take the ramp because I knew I could do it without even the slightest risk of injury. And how did I know that? Easy. Because I’m still eighteen.
The truth is also that I didn’t take the news of my mother’s retirement well not because she was retiring, but because of why she’s retiring. Because she’s sixty-seven. SIXTY-SEVEN. Which was a lie, because she’s really fifty. If that.
And the truth is also that the swing set that has kept my children tanned and joyful isn’t rusty at all. Because rust implies the weathering of an extended period of time, and that cannot be because my children are not 9 and 7, but 6 and 4.
In the end, that was what made me weary—knowing I was fighting time. And that’s a war I cannot win.
Because I am growing older.
And my mother is, too.
And so are my kids.
Doesn’t matter how much I wish it were otherwise, either. Doesn’t matter how much I don’t want things to change.
I’ve heard that time is a human invention to explain regret and expectation. It doesn’t really exist, not to animals, not to God. Just to us.
Maybe that’s true.
In the meantime, I’m going to rest my knee and watch my mother enjoy her retirement.
But I’m going to buy a new swing set for the kids.
Some things, I just can’t let go.