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Chatterbox: The last time


We often hear people say there is a first time for everything. Well, there isn’t.

There’s a first time for everything, if it exists and if we count it on a worldwide scale. On personal levels, there is only a first time for what we do or attempt to do, and there are innumerable “firsts” that don’t happen. A simple example: There was a first time someone went hang gliding somewhere in the world, but there will never be a first time I hang glide, because I will definitely never hang glide.

I was talking to my wonderful neighbor recently, as I do often. I had been working on a project for my high school reunion and everything that could go wrong, did. It was frustrating. Things that go haywire make us nuts, especially when we keep beating back the obstacles only to find more obstacles.

Still, I mentioned during the chat that this reunion is probably the last one my classmates will ever have, and definitely the last one I’ll do this project for. We’re all older now. Everything is a bit harder, yet we’re busier now than ever.

In our years after high school, people are lightning fast. We go to college and work. We get married, pay a mortgage, maintain two vehicles, and raise multiple kids who easily have three weekly commitments each, and tell us at 11 p.m. that they need orange poster board and glitter puff paint – right now.

Today, my former classmates may watch “Jeopardy” regularly, but those late-night poster board kids are now raising our precious grandchildren all over the map, still keeping us on our toes. We operate on all four burners most of the time just to keep up.

So, in that spirit of keeping up, I beat back the issues with 16 incorrigible centerpieces that involved disappearing tools, the dance of the Spanish Moss, some very badly behaved clay, piles of silk flowers, hot glue guns, and a missing bag of very imperative floral pins. It was a witches’ brew to just make me nuts. Still, I reflected on being blessed to do safe and ordinary things on a daily basis. Plus, again, it was that lifetime “last.”

We all do, also, become comfortable with the lifetime “lasts.” Whether they come due to health, finances, bad timing, bad knees, or mere choice, those “lasts” are as natural as their “firsts,” and are just part of the greater process.

Last year, around the winter holidays, we talked about the fat lady singing at my house. I decorated to 9.9 on the St. Nick-tor scale, took some great photos and swore an oath it would be the last time I went up the ladder and off the charts for the holidays. That may have been a remarkable “last” for me, but we all have them. Some are preceded by an epiphany, some happen by sheer accident and some are simply a coming of age.

When we’re young we’ll live home, attend college, or change jobs, each for the last time. As we grow older, there will be a last time we color our hair, travel abroad, go to an out-of-state wedding, or do the limbo.

The best and most interesting thing is that, just when we think it will make us sad to give up certain things, we realize we’re just as happy not to do them as we used to be doing them. Just as an aside, we sometimes find that we are actually happier.

It seems that many, if not most, of us believe that only taking on new things – having those “firsts” – is what makes life fun or worth living, but our “lasts” also mark the progress we are born to achieve, the watermarks of maturing and independence. It is they, just as much as the “firsts” that follow us through every age and every stage of a normal development we’re blessed to have. It is the “lasts” that mark new “firsts” and the opportunity thereof.

When my kids were young we used to talk about when their future started, but life is a progression, not a deadline. Our future is always arriving but never actually arrives. It is every second of every minute and it’s all filled with challenges and fun and, though planning is suggested, enjoying is highly recommended – the “firsts,” the “lasts,” the “everythings.”