The Last Day… I Didn’t Know.

When Kelly at Are You Finished Yet contacted me and asked if I would co-host this week for the Remember The Timers, a few things happened. First, I was tickled pink. Really, little ole me? Why I’d be honored, I drawled… in my head. Fact is, I am honored. I truly felt a wee bit giddy at the invitation. Me? Invited to play with the big girls? Yippee! Then I simmered down and got to business, all details and whatnot, like those big girls: What’s the prompt? When do I need to have it done by (tomorrow night! Eek!)? How do I add that Linky thing? I got info. and assured Kelly that I could indeed be trusted. I checked in with Emily at The Waiting, Kelly’s weekly comrade in arms, and assured her of the same things.  But the final thing that happened, was that I got stage fright. Yep, I got all anxious about that stupid Linksymabob and making my post meaningful, clever, funny… or at least not stupid. I fretted for a while and maybe had a wave of nausea or two, and I kind of agonized most of the day about what I should write about.

This week’s prompt is “The last day…” of work, school, summer camp, anything you want to write about. The idea is to stay with the general theme of Remember the time; this is nostalgia at its best, so your story should cradle that concept and then run with The Last Day.  If you’re interested in participating in this weekly link up, see further instructions at the bottom.

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The best part of the last day of school, was getting color back. Black and white days were so dull.

The best part of the last day of school, was getting color back. Black and white days were so dull.

I got the gig later in the day yesterday, and I’ve been ruminating about it all day, as I took on my regularly scheduled busy day. I can remember quite a few of my Last Days… The last day of school is what jumped into my head first. What kid didn’t live for the last day of school? (You can run with it. Go ahead; tell us all about your last day of school!) I remember the last day I ever waitressed, and swearing on all that is holy: I will never do this again. I didn’t. But neither of those memories felt entirely right for me. What kept coming up for me, throughout the day was all the times I didn’t know it was The Last Day– all those precious moments and events that I didn’t recognize when I was in them, the last days I didn’t really see coming.

I’m a ritual girl. I’m emotional and very sensitive to things around me; I always have been. When I was little, my mother was constantly saying “Dawn, you’re so sensitive…” To be honest, the way she said it told me that this was not a good thing. I began to think that being sensitive was something that really needed fixing, and I often tried really hard to not seem sensitive. (Note to parents: Watch what you say, and how you say it. You never know how your kids are hearing something and what they’ll hold on to…)  However, we are what we are… and I’m sensitive. I grew up and eventually figured out that “sensitive” wasn’t really a bad thing, in moderation. But fond of rituals, emotional, sensitive, these things all add up to someone who likes to set down roots, someone who likes traditions and familiar things. As much as I love to free fall, I love my ties to people, places and things, and their impact in my life. Those connections are what sustain me. And so, in all honesty, more often than not it’s been the last days that I didn’t know were last days, that have most impacted me over the years– the times when those rituals, those ties to people, places and things, were broken or altered, that really hit me.

I love the way my grandpa held my little leg.

I love the way my grandpa held my little leg.

My paternal grandfather was someone I adored as a very young child. I remember him as soft spoken, strong and kind. I remember sitting in his lap, or cuddling in his arms, while he told us a story or we listened to the thunder and lightening roll across the Carmel sky. I remember his chair, or what I believed was his chair.  I remember peeking out the back bedroom window at my grandparent’s and seeing him hide Easter Eggs… The fact that real life rabbit was out there too, only solidified my belief that my grandfather was extra special. If the Easter Bunny and him were buddies, I was in good hands. I remember watching for whales off of Big Sur, with his enormous binoculars. I remember bits and pieces of time with him that come together in my memory and make him bigger than I know he was. But I don’t remember the last day I spent with him. I remember my parents telling me that he had died. I  remember the grown ups around me flailing in the waters of grief, when he was gone, but I don’t remember what he last said to me, or what we did together. I didn’t know it would be the last day with him, and when he was gone, I only wished for another.

When my parents separated, like so many other kids, we were shuffled back and forth between them. They both loved us, they both wanted us; that I knew. I couldn’t really understand why they couldn’t just do that together, but the tension between them was palpable enough that even as a nine year old, I knew things were cracked. It was a time however, before divorce became half of all marriages. There weren’t many templates for broken families; my parents didn’t really know how to navigate things. And so we went back and forth, and back and forth again. We slept in one bed with mom and another with dad. We knew things would be one way in her house and another with him. I still felt loved by both of them, but it was a broken up love and my brother, sister and I learned to shift and bend, depending on where we woke up.

Oh, to have this day back.

Oh, to have this day back.

I remember my father spending another fun weekend with us. I couldn’t tell you with accuracy what we did, but things with my dad were pretty much always fun. I remember that, with the sugar-coated memories of a child. I remember pulling up to the apartment complex when he brought us home that weekend, and my mother coming out to get us. She didn’t invite him in, because then he might see that she had packed everything up. Only she knew that. I remember him hugging each of us and giving us a big kiss. I remember feeling sad to watch him drive away, but I also remember sucking it up, because this was our new normal; I was the big sister and I knew we would see him the next week. We didn’t. We boarded a plane and flew to Boston, so that my mother could feel the support of her family around her. My father was killed in a car accident nearly a year later. That day he drove away was the last day I ever saw him again. Oh to have known that then! I would have wrapped that day up in tissue paper and kept every moment sacred. I would have remembered every detail with truer clarity. If I had know that was the last day I would be with my father, I would have held on with all of my nine year-old self.

There have been countless Septembers when I’ve found myself putting on a sweater and saying, Wow, last tuesday/thursday/etc was definitely the last day of summer. Maybe I drank in all that last summer warmth, or did something special to embrace the day, but just as likely, it was a day where I was busy or lazy or preoccupied, and didn’t realize the last day of summer 1984, 1993, 2013… had come and gone.

Which was the last day I stopped believing in Santa? Or Tinker Bell? Which was the last day that I played hop scotch for real? What was I doing the last day before I knew what Huntington’s Disease was, and did I drink it up? Did I savor my ignorance or appreciate   that my life was blessed? The ticking time bomb that would make our family forever a mine field, had not detonated yet; what was I doing on that last day before impact?

A few things were different before I became a mom... Not just the hair

A few things were different before I became a mom… Not just the hair

The last day before I gave birth to my first child, did I understand that I was shedding so much of what I knew to be me– who I was, at that time. I didn’t really understand that I would come out of the hospital not only with a new person, but as a new person. The me that had danced a certain way, and walked a certain way, and thought the way I’d thought for all the years leading up to the moment my daughter was born, would never be that same person again. I would forever see the world through a mother’s eyes, beginning on February 16, 1990. On February 15, 1990, the last day that I was not a mother, I didn’t realize that everything would change.

There are so many last days that I saw coming. I ritualized them. I ate ice cream on the last day of school and walked home with my best friends. On the last day I used training wheels, I was over the moon with anticipation, knowing that my dad was going to teach me how to ride a two-wheeler the next day. The last day before each of my two oldest kids left for college, we spent sacred time together. We packed, we ate favorite meals, I took in every minute and held it close. That moment before I pulled my first tooth out, I clearly recall wiggling it one last time and then running my tongue along my full set of baby teeth, knowing that with one more wiggle, I would have a gap. The last days I saw, hold their own special place in my mind. They are nostalgic and tinged with a golden haze that I still like to look at.

The last days that I didn’t know were there, those are the ones that I struggle with. Those are the bitter sweet days that I wish I had recognized when I had them. I wish I had taken closer notice and held them a little dearer. I wish I’d grabbed some of them and not let them go without a fight. Those are the last days I’d like to have back.

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Now it’s your turn. Share your favorite The Last Day story. Did you do something special every year on the last day of school? Did you tell your boss off on your last day of work, or did you cry when on your last day at your favorite job? Remember the time you had a Last Day worth remembering? Share it by linking up with us. It’s easy; here’s how:

1. Write your post. Remember it can be ANYTHING about The Last Day, as long as it’s a Remember The Time vibe.

2. Grab this badge and put it at the bottom of you post.


3. Last, add your link below and come back to see all the other great posts that other bloggers have written. Comment on them, Tweet and Share your favorites, using the hashtag #RTTbloghop.  The link-up closes at midnight EST next Wednesday, so get your link up before then.


About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
This entry was posted in Aging, Blog, Blogging, blogs, Daily Observations, Death of parent, Honest observations on many things, Huntington's Disease, Life, Musings, My world, Parenting, Personal change, Tales From the Motherland, Weekly Writing Challenge, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to The Last Day… I Didn’t Know.

  1. Cathy Ulrich says:

    I so love your writing…


  2. eileenvhunt says:

    A beautiful reminder to live in our hearts and continuously make the effort to be fully present.
    Thanks Dawn.

    Where did you find that home video of Jim Croce? Such talent always floors me. I remember shopping at some clothing store a few years back when his song “Operator” came over the store speakers. I couldn’t stop myself from singing out loud and soon 4 or 5 women sifting through the racks around me joined in. I closed my eyes and went back to the 70’ies (holding a huge ‘portable’ cassette player by the square handle and wearing my brothers chunky leatherette head phones while trying to look cool ;-).


    • Eileen! I missed this comment… so sorry. Yes, it is so important to be present and enjoy each experience, as we are in it. I found the Jim Croce video ages ago– Google. It’s a home video of Jim and his boy. It is so beautiful! Makes me cry. I loved his music, and would definitely sing along with you! 😉 BTW: you always looked cool. xo


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  4. And THIS is why I asked you to take over RTT this week. It took my breath away, Dawn. So many phrases just settled into me: “bits and pieces of time with him that come together in my memory and make him bigger than I know he was,” “I would have wrapped that day up in tissue paper,” seeing your grandpa with a rabbit and feeling certain he was extra special. Such perfect sentiments. The story about your grandpa specifically resonated with me because of my own relationship to my grandfather who has passed. In a way, I was conscious of a “last day” with him, as he battled a long illness and it became pretty apparent when his final day was looming. And I had a chance to have a “last conversation” with him, at his own initiation, before he slipped into the quiet final days of his life. But still, that moment I got the call wasn’t easy. That idea of not knowing when something is a last day is something I struggle with as well. I’m much like you. I love rituals. I love things to have their proper and fitting ending. You expressed so beautifully many things I feel. I just simply loved, loved this post. (And…woot woot on the InLink!!!!) Thank you again for doing this.


    • Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m so glad you enjoyed this, Kelly. I’m so grateful to you for trusting me to take this on… admittedly, my stomach was in knots last night. I’m SO relieved to hear that my link is done right… it’s hard for me to see on my own site.

      My grandfather died of a sudden heart attack and there was no goodbye. As painful as it was, I’m glad you got that last conversation. Loss is not easy or positive… period. But a little closure goes a long way for me, as well.

      Thanks again for handing me the reigns for a week, and for the wonderful feedback. Much appreciated!


  5. Stephanie says:

    Beautiful post! thanks for sharing your personal stories.


  6. Soapsuds says:

    Beautiful, beautiful…just like you. xoxo


  7. The Waiting says:

    I echo everything Kelly said. This was fantastic, Dawn. Your writing is amazing because your memories are so specific to your own experience, but I can see so much of my own life in what you’ve written. That’s the sign of an exceptional person AND writer. Those last days that we never see coming: those are the days that make us who we are. Bravo, madame ;D

    Liked by 1 person

    • Why thank you Emily! I started thinking it through all afternoon and then it just came at me. I was sorely tempted to write about my last waitressing job… I think I’m over due for a funny post! I’m sincerely honored that you guys asked me. Thanks!


  8. Dawn, you are an amazing writer. I love this post, and it really has motivated me to draft a last day story of my own. Hope to post it early next week. You are inspiring! 🙂


  9. I love this! And, it made me teary too. You articulated what I couldn’t in my post. Especially that last paragraph. Sorry for the loss of your father. And, I almost wrote about my last day of waiting tables myself! 🙂


    • I have mixed feelings about making people cry, but apparently (given my subjects) not mixed enough to go with funny! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story, and share such kind feedback. I was gone all day yesterday, but this morning I plan to read all of the others! I’m headed over to yours first. 🙂


  10. Sue says:

    This was such an awesome post. And so heartfelt. Reading this is just another reminder that each day is a gift, and to appreciate all of my moments – even the ones that feel annoying or anxiety ridden or sorrowful. Thank you for sharing this!!


    • Thank YOU, Sue for your kind and positive feedback. It means a lot. Each day is indeed a gift, and we all need to really notice the small moments that slip by, but may be the last. I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.


  11. Holli says:

    Dawn, I felt your words. Thanks so much for sharing your personal stories. You’re so right about the transformation that happens when becoming a mother. My son’s birth was scheduled for a c section and I remember spending our ‘last day’ before becoming parents. I drove my husband crazy saying ‘this is the last time FILL IN THE BLANK’ for absolutely everything that day 🙂


    • Welcome to TFTM, Holli. I’m so happy you took the time to stop by and read a post. I hope you’ll check out others, and share your thoughts. There are so many layers to parenting, and becoming a parent… it is a long transition, filled with infinite highs and lows. I too remember going out for dinner right before our first was to be born and saying: this is our last night out as people without children… this is our last… I totally know what you mean! Such a special time with our spouses… before things get very real! 😉 Thanks again for taking the time; much appreciated!


  12. I’m sitting here reading your post, feeding my 5-month-old and thinking, “I want this to be the last day I have a nighttime feeding…” Doubt it. I love this so much! I love how you speak of known and unknown last days. I need to know. I hate the ones I don’t know. I’m not as ritualistic as you, but I’m not good at savoring every moment and soaking all the goodness in when I should…. so I need to know. Thanks for reminding me that there are times for sentiment and sensitivity. Probably like now…. I should probably be enjoying this nighttime feeding. Ugh. Thanks for this!


    • Thanks for stopping by TFTM, and welcome! I hope you’ll check out some other posts and share your thoughts… I really appreciate you taking the time. For me, so many of the Last Days I didn’t know, came because they were shockingly painful and that’s what makes them so powerful. There are all the others… like the last time that baby you are holding will actually not want to nurse, and maybe (just maybe) you’ll feel some loss, when you realize it’s true. Weaning my last baby, my son Little Man, was so hard! He was a week shy of a year, and we were both ready… but not as much as I’d thought. I knew he was our last, and each time I thought about the fact that I would never nurse one of my babies again… I just couldn’t give up that night time feeding. I wanted to be done, on one level… but the finality of it was really hard– for me. That’s the key: each of us has our own boundary, our own ties to things. If you’re really done, and want it over, you may feel very differently about that ending. If it didn’t come thru’ in my piece, I “need to know” too… I want to know, so I CAN make a “ritual” of the ending, so I can make sure it’s done right and feels done. Those shocking, unexpected endings are the ones that haunt me…

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read, and leave such a meaningful, personal comment. It’s why I write. 😉


  13. Wow. Every single bit of this resonated with me. I love variety and have traveled and moved, but I long for stability and roots and tradition. Human connection is huge for me as is family. And then I became so teary eyed reading about your father. I just can’t imagine and I’m sorry you had such a loss as a young girl. And THEN I read the part about the last days as not being a mom and that really hit me. I actually almost wrote about that too! I think of those days often because you things will change, that life will change, but you never see it coming how much you will change as a person. It’s something I still struggle with…..I mourn the loss of who I was, but in the very same moment I cherish and love the mom I’ve become. Great post.


    • Thank you so much Casinos to Castles, and welcome to TFTM! I really appreciate you taking the time and energy to read this post and leave such a thoughtful, personal comment. Thanks for sharing! I agree that all of these phases of our lives have their beginnings and endings, as well as the transitions between phases. It is a time of wonderful change, and painful choices some times. I have had a lot more loss in my life than some, and also a lot of wonder as well. I feel very lucky, even if I wish some of it had been different. Thanks again for making an effort.


  14. This is incredible writing. Very moving to say the least.

    I think about “lasts” a lot. I always want to remember every little detail…every smell, every color, every face. Sometimes when I struggle to recall my memories I feel a pang of sadness. Like I’ve somehow let the memory slip through my fingers.


    • How wonderful to see you on my comments page, Jen. I love reading your posts and appreciate you stopping by to check out my work. I’m touched that my writing moved you. I totally understand what you mean here; I too struggle with letting go and losing things along the way. I am learning (at my ripe age!) to really focus on the letting go. It’s a hard thing for me, but I can see the value. Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts, and visit my page.


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  16. Aussa Lorens says:

    Gosh… the story about your father… I’m so sorry. It’s so hard to remember to savor each moment and drink it all up just in case it is a “last.” Like you said, we are good at this when we KNOW something will be a last, but those that take us by surprise are certainly haunting. There’s a line in my favorite book, “Till We Have Faces” where one of the main characters talks about how all the things she experiences in life are like “little deaths” even marriage or having a child. Because they’re always separating you from a life before another “last.”

    This was excellently written, I’m only sad that I’ve only just now found your blog.


  17. Kourtney Heintz says:

    Beautifully written Dawn. There are so many last days in life but we only gather their significance after the fact. I’m so sorry for how you lost your dad so young.


  18. This was a wonderful week in the bloghop! You ushered in a great mix of last days thinking for all of us! I just finished my post last night, one day before deadline, and then read through them all today. Thank you for hosting this hop, for taking the time to rise to their challenge, and for all the great reflections you share with us. Yes, let’s seize the day, breathe it in, breathe out, it’s all we have to share, TODAY, is good.


    • Thanks Joan! I will check out your post next. I agree, the stories this week were particularly powerful and insightful. Really beautiful writing, all around! I appreciate all of your kind comments and feedback, and the time you took to read and respond. Thanks so much!


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  20. Reblogged this on TALES FROM THE MOTHERLAND and commented:

    I’m struggling to keep up momentum and keep writing. I’m writing things to submit to other sources… places that demand it be unpublished elsewhere. My blog loses, but I’m out there working to be a writer who is published. Facebook reminded me of this post, and I it seemed a great time to repost it. A lots changed since I wrote this. I had a few things wrong, in the telling of my family story… things with my mother were a bit different; I’ve learned a lot since then ( ). “Remember The Time” no longer runs (which is too bad, because it was a great prompt!), and I don’t hear much from some of my old blogging buddies ( But I am out here, trying to write more and get myself published. This story reminds me to be mindful, but that life marches on, and things change. Hope you’ll leave a comment, and let me know what you think!


  21. This was so beautiful to read. I almost don’t want to say anything to ruin the scarcity of the message. So instead, I just wanted to say how much I loved you rocking out that hair-do haha!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I love your writing. You draw me in so easily and I can FEEL it.
    Great idea to continue this prompt.
    Happy Thanksgiving! — Audra

    Liked by 1 person

  23. You are such a brilliant writer. To even come up with the concept shows your amazing creativity. My heart completely breaks for your young self about the last time you saw your Dad. Just breaks.
    Got me thinking about a handful of lasts: some foreseen, and some not.

    One last that is always a challenge for me here in WA is the last mow of our lawn for the season. It’s not like back in MA, where the lawns freeze and go brown all winter. But our place gets so wet that even with the grass continually slowly growing all winter, we can’t mow until around March. But when will that last mow be? A few days ago, I scrambled out there and did the latest mow I’ve ever squeezed in.


  24. jgroeber says:

    Bittersweet. And so beautiful.
    But a gorgeous redhead once told me if you spend too much time looking backwards (or forwards) you miss seeing where you are now. 😉 Although honestly, you know I spend my life trying to grasp those ephemeral lasts. Sigh. (Like long walks on windswept beaches…)

    Liked by 1 person


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