Morning came today and I opened my eyes. Eight o’clock already. I slept too long.
The pace at work lately has been intense and it’s draining me. I came home last night and finished the last few pages of The Kite Runner, took a drive with Mark to pick up some Mexican fast food, came home, ate and promptly fell asleep somewhere around eight o’clock. Mark woke me long enough to tell me I didn’t want to spend the night in the recliner and that I should go to bed. When I woke up this morning, I thought, “I should clean, or do laundry or bake something with all that fresh zucchini from the garden.” Instead, I went for a walk.
Summer is racing by, just like I knew it would. It’s half gone and this morning is the first time I’ve gone for a walk outside since late spring. Our neighborhood is great for walking and biking. There are signs along some of the streets that read Bicycle Friendly Community. That means we have asphalt paths that circumnavigate the city. I’ve made good use of them over the years.
My walk takes me uphill, south along Helmo Road, winding through residential neighborhoods. At 8:30 on a Saturday morning, it’s still relatively quiet. I’m struck by how much color there is right now. The grass is so green and colorful flowers border gardens and trees. Yards are manicured and there are signs of life all around. Everything feels so warm and comfortable in the summer. I miss that feeling when winter rolls around.
Some yards are strewn with children’s toys and kiddie pools. It brings back memories of the days when my back yard was full of young children – my kids and their friends – wearing bathing suits and smelling like sunscreen, splashing and jumping in a pool full of cool water on a hot day, beach towels adorned with Disney characters draped over the deck railing and Popsicle sticks littering the grass. The yard is more tidy these days, and the grass is healthier, but it’s awfully quiet back there now.
It’s warmer than I thought it would be when I set out on my walk. My sunglasses keep slipping down my nose. An older couple rides past me on a tandem bike. He rides in front, wearing jeans, a button down shirt with the sleeves rolled to his elbows, a baseball cap on his head. She is behind in a pair of athletic capri pants, a baggy t-shirt and her messy morning hair blowing wild in the breeze as they roll by me. There is just a little thought in my head as they pass. “Sweet.”
A few other early birds cross paths with me as I walk. There’s Franz, walking the neighbor’s Golden Retriever, traveling in the opposite direction as me. Franz is a mentally challenged man who everyone around here seems to know. He spends a lot of time at the home of our neighbors, though he has a place of his own somewhere. I call out a good morning to him, and he cheerfully replies, asking how I am.
“Good! How are you?”
“Just fine,” he says. And then it is quiet again.
Later, I come upon a woman jogging slowly. Again, good mornings are exchanged as she continues in the direction from where I came, and I continue toward where she came from. Only after she has passed me do I realize it’s a woman I used to know from church. I haven’t been to our church in a long time, so I haven’t seen her lately. I wonder if she recognized me too. If she did, she gave no indication. That’s okay. I wasn’t in the mood for stopping and talking anyway.
All this quiet and calm makes me introspective and I’m thinking about my state of mind lately. I seem to always be anxious, slightly sad, and maybe a little bit dark inside. I look at my kids, how big they’ve become, and lament the fact of how little time, quality time, we actually spend together. They’re growing up.
Brad has worked full-time all summer long. He does hard work – cement testing. He works outdoors most days, and it’s been a long summer for him considering the abnormally hot and humid days that have settled over us. He’s spent his free time lately taking apart a boat trailer so that he could re-wire the lights that were malfunctioning. While he had it apart, he decided to strip the paint and refinish it. He worked for weeks on that trailer and it looked great when he was done. The lights still don’t work right. He found that out when he and his buddy, Joe took the boat out to Bald Eagle Lake last week and went fishing.
This weekend, Brad has gone with Heather to her grandparents’ lake home, as they have done many, many weekends. They miss each other while they’re apart and they find ways to reconnect as much as possible. Next weekend, Brad goes back to Fargo and to Heather and school. He plans to stay in Fargo through next summer, taking classes and will hopefully graduate not long afterwards. I don’t really know if he’ll come back home after that.
Jake is working – almost full-time, but not quite. He is mostly gone by the time I come home from work and he doesn’t usually get home until after midnight. I still try to get him to think about going back to school, but school is not his thing. I don’t know if he ever will go back. Like me and his dad, he’s going to do things the hard way. I feel a little bit sorry about that, but I know it can be done. I just wish it could be easier for him.
Jake spends a lot of time with Melissa these days. She’s good for his spirit and I like her. She’s quiet, but friendly. When they’re here, they spend their time watching movies, all wrapped around each other. Mark had a talk with Jake about not feeling comfortable in his own house and they’ve put a little more distance between themselves while they’re here. I’m thinking Jake and Melissa are similar creatures. I like that she gets him out to do fun things now and then, like go to the drive-in with a group of friends, or see movies. I came home one day to find him and a buddy dancing along with a video game in the living room, while Melissa and her friend laughed hysterically and cheered them on. Jake would never have played a dancing video game before Melissa came along. He would all too easily be content to be a homebody otherwise.
Kacey got her wisdom teeth pulled this week, so she’s been hanging around the house more than usual. Connor was a trooper and spent two entire days keeping her company while she began to heal. They got seriously bored, but he stuck with her. That’s one of the many reasons I love that kid!
Kacey’s also been busy, ordering books for her classes, and making lists of things we need to buy for her dorm room. She’s so excited to go to school! I’m really happy with her choice of schools. She’ll be close enough to home to make the trip as often as she likes. Several kids from her graduating class will go there as well, so I have comfort that she won’t be all alone in a strange place … not that I really think it would take her long to make friends. She’s pretty outgoing! She’s already on an intramural soccer team. (Soccer!)
“I haven’t played soccer since 8th grade,” she tells me.
“That’s okay. It will be fun, and I don’t think it really matters whether or not you’re a star athlete on an intramural team. I think it’s just supposed to be fun,” I tell her. “And it’s a great way to meet new people.”
I have a feeling Kacey won’t be making the trip home as often as I’d like. In less than one month, she moves out.
My kids are growing up. They all have significant others. They’re all in various stages of embarking on lives of their own.
Sometimes I think that I think too much. Maybe I hang on too tight to things that are not meant to be held on to. It seems like I’ve been dreading these very days for the past couple of years now, not wanting to let go of my kids’ childhoods. Most of the time, there seems to be a wall that I can’t see beyond and so I think of the future with sadness and gloom because all I see is a future without my kids in my daily life.
But my walk did me some good today. It seemed like I was beginning to see over that wall. I started to see my kids exploring a life of their own. I thought about how even now, at my age, I am still learning and discovering things about myself, still growing, and how much I love it when I get out of a rut and discover something new and exciting. I want my kids to have those kinds of experiences and to love them too. They have to grow up and move on in order for that to be possible. Sometimes I just wonder why I can’t look back on our memories and more often feel like smiling at the realization of how lucky I am to have those memories instead of feeling like crying because they’re gone. Need to work on that.
As I walk north along Hadley Avenue, getting close to the end of my walk, I start to think about the things I might like about an empty nest; weekends with nothing to do but what I choose to do. Maybe I’ll enjoy cooking more because I’ll have time to get creative with it. Maybe I’ll find more time to spend with my sister or with friends and I can be more relaxed about it because there are no tournaments for which we all have to be awake at the crack of dawn. The house will stay cleaner and if it doesn’t there will be no one to blame but myself (or more likely, Mark. :-))
… less laundry…
… more time to read…
… road trips for the sake of taking road trips…
… meaningful conversations with my kids; ones that involve more than me trying to be the wise parent spewing words of wisdom to a child who knows so little…
… grandchildren …
As I traverse the final few blocks of my route down Stillwater Boulevard, I realize that there are probably quite a few years in which I can look forward to kids moving back in and out again. I know from my own experiences at their ages that I can plan on them showing up at home quite often in the hopes of a home cooked meal or just a shoulder to lean on. Those lazy, quiet days are still a ways off.
That was a good walk. I should do that more often.