For the Last Time: A Moment with Bill Reflection
Early on in Life
I visited the family farm in Iowa for the last time in 1954. The green corn stalks swayed in the wind, whispering their song on a hot summer’s day, as grandma pulled hot biscuits from the oven and the family gathered around the dining room table in prayer and thanks. It was the last day I would see Aunt Vi, Uncle Jake, and my grandparents. Today they are distant memories, short documentaries in the theater of my mind, re-played from time to time, in black and white, for a crowd of one.
I said goodbye to childish things as school demanded more maturity, more responsibility, and more attention to the seriousness of life. The puddles were splashed in less often. The giggles, which once could be heard almost daily, decreased in number as the weight of the future rammed headlong into the carefree nonchalance of childhood.
I pulled ponytails for the last time, read comic books for the last time, went roller-skating for the last time, and believed in Santa Claus for the last time, all before puberty grabbed me in a chokehold and altered the course of my life.
I was tucked into bed by my parents for the last time, hunted Easter eggs for the last time, and saw the smiling faces of many childhood friends, all for the very last time.
The Teen Years Marched On
Easter dinner was spent, for the last time, with two more aunts, one uncle, and another grandmother, all during the teen years.
I played catch with my father for the last time during those formative times. I cruised the strip, goggled at Janice Armstrong’s breasts, and double-clutched in a road race, all for the last time. I jumped off the high-dive at Surprise Lake, the water shimmering below, beckoning me, taunting me, and I raised my arms in triumph after surfacing, another dare answered, another step on the journey of those teen years, for the last time.
I played Little League baseball for the last time, said goodbye to my faithful dog Pixie for the last time, and danced in school proms for the last time. I watched in awe as a space ship landed on the moon, experienced the mystery and wonder of a first kiss, and lost my innocence, all for the last time.
I spent summers not working for the last time, relaxing in the glorious comfort that only a lack of responsibility can provide. I strutted the strut of the young, preened and pranced in all my majestic plumage, for the last time, and said farewell to naivety for the last time, as the 60s faded from view and adulthood reared its ugly head. Sock-hops, family rosary sessions, neighborhood barbecues with Jimmy and Patrick, and family Sunday dinners, all in the rearview mirror of my life, never to be experienced again.
A New Reality
I said “I love you,” in person, to my father, mother, and sister, all for the last time. I stood atop Mt. Rainier and watched the sun rise over the valleys below, for the last time. I held dozens of jobs for the last time, mourned over hundreds of regrets for the last time, and gave up on myself for the last time.
I questioned the existence of love for the last time, and wondered about the purpose of life for the last time. I looked in a mirror and said “I hate you” for the last time, purposely hurt someone for the last time, and allowed myself to be disrespected and abused for the last time.
I said adios to cruelty, anxiety, and over-indulgence, ridding myself, once and for all, of those tri-headed monsters, and kicked to the curb the twins of evil, complacency and apathy.
I ate with reckless abandon for the last time, drank a drink for the last time, and considered my body indestructible for the last time.
Missing the Old, Embracing the New
Do I miss it all? I would be a liar if I said “no,” for much of my former life was dear to me, and there are still times when I will long for the suppleness of youth, the carefree, reckless abandon that marked so much of my younger years. There are times when I cry over opportunities wasted, and there are nights when the darkness falls upon me and I wish for one more chance to tell my mother, father, sister, and friends, all now gone, how much they meant to me, or to tell those I wronged that I am so very sorry. I mourn the lost chances, the excessive ego, and the times I could have helped someone but failed to do so.
But those times are few.
The darkness then fades, replaced by the majestic sunrises of my later years. Today I can close my eyes and experience the wonder of senses exploding with input. I smell the autumn air, hear the love in our household, taste the small, and large, victories of life, feel the accomplishments so hard-earned, and see miracles that once seemed unattainable.
Today I end my day in reflection, allowing myself a pat on the back for a job well-done, and making adjustments for actions that were beneath me. Today I can toss my ego aside and admit to you and everyone that I need all of you, and my life is so much richer because you all are in my life.
There will be many more “last times,” or so I hope, but eventually, as surely as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, the day will come when I will breathe for the last time. When that moment comes, when a lifetime of joy and pain, triumphs and defeats, finally ends, I will smile, and say I love you all, for the last time.
And I will be at peace.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)