Although I am a born-and-bred Oklahoman, my parents are actually both mostly from Arizona (by way of Philly and by way of Indiana). My entire life, “going to Grandma and Poppy’s,” meant going to Tucson, Arizona, and to this day, I can still recall varying moments of my life occurring within the confines of that community. But this post is not about my background, even despite recent attempts to better understand just who I am and where I come from. Today’s post is about aging and the realities which exist around watching others grow old(er).
For most of the last decade, my grandmother has called me, “her Peter Pan.” Implying I will never grow up (in the best of ways), my grandmother has been on the front-lines of watching all the trials and tribulations life has had to offer me. And like good grandmothers, she has watched with optimism and support. But unlike Peter, I did grow up. Visiting my grandmother’s house over the past few days, I was repeatedly startled by the time capsule-like environment created by photos and magnets representing the lifespan of a dozen cousins and myself. She even has photos of me that I have never seen. It was exciting, and filled with nostalgia.
The only real experience I have had in watching someone grow up seemingly “right before my eyes” is as a result of one of my dearest friends from graduate school. This specific friend had a baby when we were in graduate school, and from the day she gave birth to precious Jack, I had a front-row view of the first two years of his life (and as a side note, they still give me shit for eating a bowl of fajitas at the hospital because I was multitasking seeing the new angel baby and trying to find time for lunch). Aging, right before my eyes – physically, emotionally, mentally, intellectually. It was fascinating, and I am forever thankful to my friend for allowing me to be part of her family’s growth. And as I age and grow, I wish for the same experience with my own family.
It has been several years since I have been back in Tucson to see family, however there was a time in my life when I visited at least once per year. When I was younger, watching my cousins grow up was quite the shock, and there was no Facebook at the time to tease us with life happenings across the United States. With each year, new heights were achieved, intellectual successes explored, and ups & downs of adolescence experienced. But this past few weeks has been different. I had the opportunity to see one of my cousins in Seattle and then two here in Tucson. And as a disservice to each of them, I still remember (and refer to) them as, “my baby cousins.” Again, these trips were different. They aren’t babies anymore. They’re adults, living, working, relating, pushing, etc. They grew up. And just as my grandmother captured all of our life moments in her time-capsule-living-quarters, my mind has been replaying this growth on nonstop repeat. The 2-year old flower-girl cousin who I walked down the isle with with as a 7-year old ring bearer can now have a glass of wine with me and talk about life. And, so, I pause. Enter, “Where did the time go,” here, right?
And despite my pause for perspective, this is life, right? “Time flies,” and other related sentiments. This is life. We age, we grow, we move up/on/over, etc. And life is scary, right? In all of my independence, and throughout all of my need to grow and thrive independently, I have learned that family has been one of the most consistent pieces of my life (for those who know me well, you will agree that this is quite the ‘ah-ha’ for me). And more than my blood-family, I have also grown to realize that my non-blood family is also equally important and consistent. And both families grow, and move, and change, and develop. And if we are too busy or too distracted to stop and embrace this constant changing and evolving nature, we will miss out. And I certainly missed out on a lot. Perfect timing for a visit “home” to San Antonio, right?
And, so, another learning lesson has appeared, and I am now more than ever reframing how I can value family just a little bit more in this new year and new direction.
How are you honoring your family-family or friend-family this holiday? How are you making time to see people, and to celebrate the aging process? Does this scare you? Hell, it scares me. The mortality of family is one thing I can’t quite wrap my head around. And it somewhat haunts me. Daily. But I have the opportunity to make a change in regard to family. I can keep the, every-two-years-Michael-comes-around-before-disappearing-into-work-and-life, sentiment, or I can pause and make time for people who matter. Despite our differences, I can make family matter.
And so can you. Even with baggage and difference, I challenge you to navigate and maneuver around the crap. Because, no matter how great your family is, there’s still a fair amount of crap – some just hide it better than others. Unearth the crap. Be the crap. Love the crap. Try, and try again.
In the spirit of planes, trains, and automobiles,
*This concludes my post-China travel posting for now. Thanks to all those who joined me at varying parts of my journey – of course, with many more to come. For now, I’m off to San Antonio…looking forward to the holidays, and a bit of consistent warm weather.