Friday, April 18, 2008
Our lives are about firsts and lasts
When you're young, life is all about firsts.
There's your first step, your first word. The first time you dressed yourself, fed yourself or took care of business in the bathroom.
Then there's learning to read, learning to write, to do math or all sorts of other academic pursuits. There's the first time you successfully hit a baseball, or caught a football, or made a jump shot from the top of the key.
Then there are the big firsts. The first time you kiss someone, or touch them intimately, or make love. The first time you hear -- or say -- the words "I love you" to someone outside your family.
You get the picture. There are plenty of unpleasant firsts as well, like the first time you realize you aren't a good enough student, or a good enough athlete. The first time you don't get a job you want, or lose one you have. The first time you realize the feelings you have for someone aren't reciprocated.
The first time someone says, "But I like you as a friend." And those were the days before "friends with privileges."
When you get older, the firsts are fewer and farther between. Many of them are our own children's firsts, and seeing my kids experience all the joy and pain of their own firsts means every bit as much to me as my own.
As you get older, you start having more "lasts" in your lives than firsts. All of us had the last time we walked the halls of Woodson as students, the last time we saw each other on a regular basis. That's not completely sad. You finish high school and you move on to the next stage of your life. It's as natural as waking up in the morning.
But what about the last time you were happy with someone? What about marriages that fall apart? When my first marriage was coming to an end, I remember waking up on a morning in January 1980 thinking that this was the last time I would wake up with her, the last time we would share breakfast or just idle conversation in the morning.
It was, but I was lucky. I found something better, and I sincerely hope my last day with Nicole will be the last day of my life.
I've been thinking lately about the last time I saw my dad. It was when I was home for the 40th anniversary reunion in October. We spent some time together. He was frail but very alert. His old self mentally. I talked to him on the phone in late February or early March, and a few weeks later I found myself thinking I hadn't called for a couple of weeks.
He died before I had a chance to talk to him again, and I don't remember much about the last time we talked.
We're flying to Virginia tomorrow for his funeral service Tuesday at Arlington National Cemetery, but I guarantee Tuesday won't be the last time I think of him or miss him or wish I could have one last talk.
We always remember our firsts.
We need to think about the lasts too.