Tuesday, May 03, 2022

A Last Drive

 As I was reflecting on the weekend which include The Social Outing, I realized that we had passed one of those milestones of last things that will likely never come again.  In this case, the family vacation drive.

The location of the Social Outing was 1.5 hours from where we were staying and so - ever mindful of the "early is on time and on time is late" - we left, mostly in order to avoid traffic which never seemed to materialized.  Which was fine, as it turned out to be a beautiful spring day of green and wildflowers.

The drive - winding up through greenery and fields and small towns - is one I have not made in many years.  Na Clann have probably made it at least once, although I am sure that none of them recall it at this point as it has been too many years.  We drove through the small villages, replete with weekend travelers at boutique stores and restaurants I can likely not afford.  We stopped a upscale grocery store we used to stop at which had closed, only to find it had opened again under another name. This was something they very all much did remember, as we would always stop there for dipped cookies when we were in the area.

It was in the last town before our destination, when we were recklessly spending time while meandering through the streets as we were very early, that I suddenly realized that quite likely, this was the last time this would happen.

Nighean Gheal (the oldest) is in the process of finding out when her actual start-date is for her post-college "career-type" job, which will certainly be no later than October.  There is a tiny chance she will stay in the area, but more likely she will be off to A Big City.  Nighean Bhan (the middlest) will finish college this December and start working while she applies to graduate school; between work, graduate school and The Boyfriend (who, after dating for 3 years, may finally have to get a name here) her ability or "desire" to get away will be limited, even if she lives at home during that time (which seems the plan).  Nighean Dhonn (the youngest) is a year away from college and has made it fairly clear that once she goes, coming back will be limited to Summer and Christmas (if that).  

The plans for this Summer are already in place and their lives (and ours, to be fair) are planned out.  Thus, this drive through old houses and greenery might very well be the last that we would take together in this sort of form.

It is a sobering thing when the thought hits you.  For a moment one tries to drink it all in.  One is almost tempted to say something but somehow that will spoil the spontaneity and mood which is present at that moment.  It becomes like the wildflower that blooms for a short period:  to do anything else other than just appreciate it - to pick it or press it - is in some meaningful way to mar its beauty, even if for a short moment it appears the same.

And so I allowed the moment to be, listening to the discussion of music and pricing of homes and the sorts of trivia that seem to fill the moments that are meaningful when we do not realize that they are.

I am sure that there will be other, different moments to come that will be equally as good.  That is something I have had to learn by the hard experience of trying to crystalize the moments that have gone on before.  But they will be different in pesonae dramatae even if most of the characters remain the same.  But they will never be this moment - this fleeting, ephemeral moment at the end of one era and the start of another.

The trees shook their leaves gently as we drove by.  It was likely the breeze to most people; I know otherwise.


  1. It's easy to look back and remember the last time we did something, or the last time we saw someone who is no longer with us.
    But we don't seem to think about a future when that the person who isn't with us, is, well, us.
    I've been doing some thinking about how I relate to others, and I'm coming to a realization that an epitaph that says, "John was a nice guy and was pleasant to people" is a decent thing to leave behind.

    And I need to spend more time as you said, "And so I allowed the moment to be..."

  2. Not everyone recognizes when there is a transition. Good luck for your offspring moving on, anyone moving to a Big City needs luck nowadays. This coming from someone who lived in Chicago for eight and a half years a loooong time ago. Yah, most people don't recognize the change.

  3. John, this mirrors my own thinking (quite a lot, these days). Doing reading in the Stoics has helped immeasurably, but in the concept of "remembering my time is limited" and "there will be a time when I am not here". And it is also very true that people do not always remember what we say, but they always remember how we made them feel.

    I think about that a lot these days. I can remember to this day how people throughout my life, from my childhood forward, made me feel - good and bad. The bad ones always seem to be easier to remember, of course, but the good ones are there too. And those are the ones that in a sense, are our legacy to everyone that we meet.

    I eschew a lot of arguments these days - both in writing and in conversation - because the subjects we argue about will be forgotten, but how we felt coming out of those arguments will be remembered a long time.

  4. Nylon12 - I would like to (hopefully) say I am becoming more sensitive to such things, and perhaps I am, but at the same time what it took me to reach that sensitivity was getting beaten (figuratively) with a metaphysical 2 x 4 multiple times until I got the message. I think it really accelerated in the latter half of 2020 with my parents, when I suddenly came to realization that in a lot of ways, when we went somewhere or did something, it was literally the last time we might do it. And a couple of non-related deaths that led me to realize that every time we see someone may be the last time.

    In terms of The Big City - I wish my children all the best in the world in doing it. For Nighean Gheal, she has effectively lived in big cities (some quite large ones) for all of her college years and to some extent before that when we relocated to New Home in 2009. It is certainly not for me anymore.

  5. Good on you for seeing that while you were in it. The last time we all were together on a road trip, we packed the suburban to the point there wasn't much room for anyone. A friend and mentor had passed away, and my wife was taking everything she had been given from the estate. The we stuffed ourselves in. Contortionist convention!! The "kids" were all teenagers, and not too happy about it.

    I found an old sock, stuffed my hand in it and used it as a puppet. It became the truth talker. IT was the one that complained about everything accurately! It was pretty funny. Even my wife giggled a bit. Kept everyone sane for the 8 hours home.... When someone would complain the sock would take up the whinging and was even better at it than the original complainer.

    Last time we were all together in a car for a family trip.... Memorable... but only after did I realize the turning point.

  6. I was raised with the come early philosophy and would rather kill time to be on time versus rush in late to anything. But I married into a culture where fashionably late is early and coming really late is normal. It has probably been the hardest thing of the culture for me to deal with.

  7. STxAR - That sounds like a very memorable trip!

    The last two of those I can remember are in 2016 when I and all the girls drove to Montana (The Ravishing Mrs. TB flew up) and a later trip - maybe 2018? - where we all drove back to Old Home for Christmas. Again, only realizing after the fact that the long range car trips were a thing of the past.

  8. Ed - My high school band instructor's guidance remains with me to this day - almost to the point that I have problems dealing with not being anywhere early and an aversion to last minute changes.

    I can see where that would create an adjustment in your case.

  9. God bless you all, TB.

  10. Those milestones are the passage, and our job is to prepare them as best we can to be as independent and strong as we can make them, yet without hardening their hearts.

  11. Precious times for precious memories. I remember when mine were little and required (seemingly) all of my time and energy. It was exhausting and I would have to remind myself to treasure the time because they would grow up all too soon and leave the nest. Your lovely post is a wonderful reminder to always do that.

  12. Anonymous3:44 AM

    This essay reminds me of car trip vacations we used to take when kids were far younger and smaller. Back then, there was no real destination, we enjoyed driving 'Blue Highways' and staying in small towns where they rolled up the sidewalks promptly at 5 p.m. Kids were in strollers or in child backpack, walking empty city parks. It was quiet and peaceful, where my Wife and I could re-connect with each other without distractions of shopping or theme parks. We roamed most of Texas that way and one trip actually spent more money on gasoline then the motels we stayed at.

    Then the kids grew up and dug in their heels - these trips are boring, lets do family stuff. So the years of theme parks and staying in long lines, eating very expensive confections and drinks occurred. Not so much connecting any more, the attractions were the sights and noise of the rides.

    Too much for me now. But it was nice while it lasted. I didn't really appreciate those vacations until much later. Kids are all grown up now.

  13. Thank you Linda. One of the great gifts God has given me lately is the ability to recognize these moments.

  14. John - You are right of course, and I hope I have done the best I could. In some ways I can see the hardness already that the world has put on them; I can only grieve that and hope that it is not lasting. I have found it has taken me years in some cases to pull back what I allowed the world to do with me.

  15. Leigh - It is very exhausting and too often I think I took it for granted - one easy example is that for most of the non "big" vacations, there is a picture of everyone but me, because I was working. Thus, things like this became even rarer. I am glad I had the opportunity to enjoy this one.

  16. Anonymous - My parents were very "religious" about taking vacations together as a family and for years growing up, we would roll out to the coast to camp for a week or more (it was only later that I realized that was probably what we could afford at the time).

    Interestingly, the best memories I have of our vacations with our children is similar: vacations to local national or state parks, one or two to theme parks (when they were small and the wonder was still there). And even after we moved to New Home, the drives back and forth, of being packed into a car and driving for two to three days on end, fighting over what would be listened to on the radio (before the ubiquitous of the small music device).

    It strikes me as odd - or full circle - that The Ravishing Mrs. TB and myself now find ourselves back more towards where you used to be, looking at in-state trips and just driving around the backroads. Ourselves perhaps making a new set of memories.

  17. My third and last one married a month ago, another of many passages as you describe. Some are as informal as an afternoon drive, while some are as significant as a wedding. They are bittersweet, in that we want our offspring to grow up and have meaningful lives of their own, and yet we seem hard-wired to mix a little melancholy with the joy.


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