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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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.
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.
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?
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.