I feel like in the last year or two I've become more of an adult than I've ever been. The whole having-kids-being-married-purchasing-homes-being-gainfully-employed thing didn't do it for me. I didn't feel like a grown-up then. In fact, I spent several years basically waiting for someone to come and say, "What are you doing? You have no business here" and throw me out. Out of adulthood.
I think part of this whole growing up experience has been my parents. I've developed a relationship with them that isn't parent/child. I mean, they are still my mom and dad and I am still their daughter, but they don't treat me like a kid. They don't discredit what I say and they don't act like I'm a child and unable to function without their help.They value my opinion on things (they might just do whatever they want anyway, but at least they listen). They respect me as a mother. Most importantly, they stay out of my business. This does not mean they don't care. Far from it. They just trust that I will keep my finances in order, believe that I make responsible decisions, and know that I deal with my issues on my own. They would be the first to offer advice, help, a loving ear or whatever else I needed, if I asked. They don't butt in.
I drove them to the airport the other day. It was early, much earlier than I'm normally awake. I walked into the airport with them, even though they didn't need me to. As I was leaving my mom hugged me first, then my dad. My dad said,
"I love you pumpkin."
Four words and I'm a five year-old again.
Not in a bad way, really. I just felt nostalgic. Touched. Maybe a little sad. Because what do you do when that's not there anymore?
I've always been guilty of worrying to much about what's next. Next is a bad word in my vocabulary because I can't allow myself to just live and be in the moment because I worry constantly about what is going to happen tomorrow. Or the next day. Or five years from now.
However, two of my best friends lost their fathers within days of each other this January. One expected, the other unexpected. My dad has cancer. He's okay right now, mind you. But it doesn't go away.The ugly, horrible c-word. I try not to think much about it, but it lurks in the shadows of my mind all the time. It wakes me up at night. It haunts me.
My mom had cancer too. She's been cancer-free for years. I can remember vividly the fear I had, at the age of seventeen, that my mom was going to die. That she would not see me graduate high school, or get to know any of her grandchildren. She's fine now, she's healthy, and the grandson who I'm sure was largely responsible for her wanting to get out of bed most mornings during that horrible time is engaged to be married. She endured. We all did.
I think, most often, about my precious Aunt Deb. My dad's sister who was stolen from us, from the entire world, far too soon. I remember sitting with my sister at her funeral and we were amazed, just completely amazed, at the sheer number of people coming through the door. There was a seemingly never-ending line of people, heads down and arms open. She meant that much to that many people. She was not famous, she was not a celebrity. She was a mama of five kids, and a grandma of five more. She was absolutely beautiful, inside and out. She touched the heart of everyone she met.
Sometimes I look at her daughters and I choke up at how much they look like her. I tear up when I think about them being without her. How hard it must be to not be able to pick up the phone and call your mom. To complain about your day, to ask for her advice, to just hear someone say, "I love you".
At some point, I imagine, I will have to deal with these things in my own life. It is my hope that it is many, many years from now. I believe my dad will dance at my daughter's wedding and that probably won't be for at least another twenty years if Jason has anything to do with it. I believe my mom will, much like her mom at mine, yell her heart out at my children's college graduations (although, to be fair, very few people on this planet can yell quite like my Mommaw). It's always been hard for me to think about growing older, and I realized not long ago that it wasn't so much about me and how I'm aging, but it's more about my parents. My children. My nieces and nephews that I held while they slept. On the one hand, it's so exciting. I'm thrilled at my nephews engagement. I'm thrilled at his brothers recent high school graduation. I'm so, so happy that my parents are at a point in their life that my mom can retire and they can go on vacations and enjoy the results of their years of hard work. That, all of that, makes me so glad.
The rest of it? I guess I should try not to think about it much.
After I dropped my mom and dad at the airport, I drove back to their house. I wanted to water the plants, pick up the newspaper, clean the pool, just do the things they would do if they were home. The streets were quiet in my small town, the sun was just coming up.
I live in a small town now, on purpose. I moved here, with purpose. Life goes so fast. So, so fast.
For now, I will just be glad I have this time. I am thankful we have this time.
I will be glad to be my dads pumpkin. No matter how old I am.