The last time one of my daughters sat on my lap. The last time my father gave me a violin lesson. The last time I ran five miles. I think about these occasions but cannot remember them, because I didn't know when the child jumped off my lap (for my sins, I may have even asked her to get up) that she would never climb on again. I didn't know when I wiped the rosin off my bow that I would never again hear my father interrupt my playing with “that's very nice. However...”--something that never failed to annoy me when he said it. And I didn't know, as I panted and stretched my sore legs, that I was experiencing my final runner's high.
Now, as the years gently coax me to give up one thing here, another there (no more planting trees single-handedly, no more partying until dawn), I wonder about these milestones too, as well as the ones to come. When will I hear my 90-year-old mother tell me on the phone for the last time that she's just brought 25 flower pots indoors (all by herself!) to save them from the coming frost? When will I fix my husband dinner (something that, after 40 years, has lost some of its luster) for the last time? When will my ten-year-old arthritic dog Lexi go for her last walk? Will I look back and regret that I was annoyed during the walk because it was drizzling, distracted during the cooking because I wanted to read a book instead, impatient with my mother because I wanted to get supper going?
Thinking about these things can, I admit, be depressing. But this kind of reflection also lends my days a bitter-sweet flavor, and allows me to approach activities that seem burdensome in a gentler frame of mind. I'm developing a kind of nostalgia for the present, simultaneously tasting its sweetness and its fleetingness. I try to walk the fine line between enjoyment of the moment and despair at its impermanence. I do the best I can.