Time seems to be a theme with me these days.
Last night our family gathered at my sister’s house to say goodbye to my nephew, Noah, who is starting his freshman year in college today. This morning his father took him up to U.C. Riverside. This marks a new chapter in Noah’s life – it is the official beginning of his launch into adulthood. I couldn’t help but look at this handsome, soft-spoken young man and remember the night he was born, only eighteen short years ago.
At the same time, our nephew Keith, 25, is about to move to New York. New York. The other side of the country. Might as well be the other side of the world. He is now a strong, capable young man with a million possibilities placed before him. We gave him an organizer as a going away gift. Suddenly, he’s going to have to consult his “book” before making appointments.
Our nephew, Luke, is well on his way, too. Sixteen years-old, with a sophisticated and dry wit, confident, and with a burgeoning career already as a gifted drummer/percussionist.
I’m so impressed with all of them.
Kids have a nasty habit of growing up, leaving you to ponder, “If he’s grown up, what am I?”. Well, the answer is obvious: a potential great aunt. Put it another way: old enough to be somebody’s grandmother. A member of AARP. Old enough to contemplate retirement. Old enough to get the senior discount at the hardware store. Old enough to live in Leisure World. Old enough to be called “Ma’am” by the boy bagging my groceries. Yikes.
Old enough to know better. Chronological age is a number. It has little to do with one’s physical or mental fitness. However, time on the planet does seem to render us a little wiser than we might have been 20 or 30 years before.
But maybe that’s an illusion, too. I still put my socks on inside-out, most of the time. I still burn the rice on a regular basis. I still have a secret vice of eating Twizzlers, even though they’re horrible for me. I still snack before dinner most nights. I still have a tendency to procrastinate to the point of making myself late for almost everything. I still lose my carkeys and/or my sunglasses nearly every day. I still get a belly laugh out of “I Love Lucy” reruns. I still cry at the end of “The King and I” (and I’ll bet I’ve seen it 20 or 30 times). I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
Regardless of what the calendar may tell you, it is past Labor Day, and that means it is autumn. This is my favorite time of year. I think of crisp apples, pumpkins, cider, and of course, the beautiful colors of the leaves in my native Pittsburgh and around my husband’s ancestral home in Connecticut. There is something so poignant about autumn. We tend to remember in this season better than any other, that we are mortal. Like the leaves we must give up our spot on the tree to make room for new life in the spring. I like to think that, also like the leaves, we are never more beautiful than during the autumn of our life, when we have reached full maturity and begun to be illuminated from within.
At least, that is what I tell myself when I am waving goodbye to Noah, in all his splendid green, tender vibrancy.