Wednesday, August 3, 2022

The last go-round


The bandana'ed trumpet player pictured above is my son Jack. He is 16 1/2 years old (just had his "half birthday") and on the verge of his senior year in high school.

School doesn't officially start for another two weeks, but parents of kids who do fall extracurriculars know how this works. Jack is in band and runs cross country, both of which have been practicing for a month. His senior year started in earnest four weeks ago.

Terry and I have of course known this was coming for a long time. We've been through the senior experience with our four oldest kids and loved all of it. And we figured we would love it when Jack got to this milestone.

We'll do that, of course, but this time it's different. Jack is our youngest. Just as everything with Elissa was a "first" so many years ago, everything with Jack is a "last." Last cross country and track season, last marching band season, last first day of school, etc.

There is every reason to celebrate what is sure to be a fun 12th-grade year for a kid who does so well in school, plays the heck out of his trumpet, is serving as co-drum major and band president as well as a class officer, and is generally one of the funniest and fun-to-talk-with people I know.

It is, as they say, all good.

Yet there's something about the finality of it that is only just now starting to hit me. For a long time there was always more to come. A Tennant kid graduates? Yay! We'll do it again with the next one. Year after year, we had kids in Wickliffe sports and band.

But this is the final lap. And it's starting to smack me right in the feels.

We've had kids in Wickliffe Schools continuously since 1999. Before that, Terry and I were Wickliffe students ourselves. And before us, our siblings were also Blue Devils, stretching all the way back to 1963 in my family's case.

When Jack walks across that stage and picks up his diploma next May, it all comes to an end. It's not a tragedy or anything, of course, but it is bittersweet.

And I didn't necessarily expect that.

Terry and I are enjoying the semi-empty-nest life, believe me. We've put in much time and effort over the years ensuring that our kids' various activities provided the best experience possible, and that they themselves learned what they needed to learn to become independent, accomplished adults. You never "stop" being a parent, but the idea of moving into the next phase of our lives is alluring. I said, there are seriously mixed feelings.

If I were someone trying to make me feel better about this whole thing, I would say something like, "Hey, you have to enjoy it! No need dwelling on the negative side. Celebrate it! Live in the moment!" Which is spot on, though it doesn't remove the specter of every event, every accomplishment and every experience being the last of its kind for our family.

It's all about attitude, I suppose. And I'm going to do my best to embrace individual moments as they come. "The end" is really more a transition than a full stop. It's inevitable, and it doesn't have to be a bad thing.

It just got here a little faster than I anticipated, is all.

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