Friday, 18 November 2011

The Last Time

It was a balmy spring day, typical of Vancouver in May. Her son was waiting with the car running in the driveway. A driveway they made big enough so that four cars could park there at once.

She fixed her hair, made sure her lipstick was on and hooked her purse over her arm. She glanced at her reflection in the mirror of the mudroom, the cold entryway that always smelled like the Macintosh apples they stored there. Carefully she walked down the back stairs, making sure the door was shut behind her.  She had done this a thousand times.

Her carefully tended backyard garden was thriving and she glanced up as she walked towards the car, making a mental note to water the marigolds. The pink dogwood was in magnificent bloom and the air was fresh and sweet.  She drew a sharp breath and as her head hit the pavement, her last thought was that the patio needed sweeping. Rolf must tend to that.


It was her usual 4AM wake-up. So familiar now with her grunting and rustling, neither mother nor baby opened their eyes as baby latched on to the breast. Even after 3 months, the mother still marveled at the sounds a nursing baby makes. A special sigh, a particular swallow. Like nothing she had ever heard before. These moments were rare now as the once-fussy babe had recently started to drink formula, a relief for both mother and child.  But neither was ready to give up this special, quiet moment in the wee hours.


Four years old is not not that old, but already she could see her oldest girl pulling away. Not a surprise given her own independent spirit but surprising just the same. She found herself looking wistfully at pictures of her little bundle toddling around on chubby legs or standing precariously on a chair to help her make cookies. Nostalgic for when she always wanted to be picked up, extending her arms and willing her mother to do her bidding with enormous blue eyes.  When she needed her. When was the last time she picked her up?  Felt her baby's arms around her neck? Why was she so anxious for that to be over?


She couldn't remember the last time she held her parents' hands. Her grandmother had an iron grip and required her granddaughter to hold her hand as they crossed their sleepy street, even when no cars were in sight. She was probably 8 or 9 and rolled her eyes at this quaint precaution. So funny that now she would give almost anything to feel her hand being squeezed like that.  The way she holds tight to her own daughter's hand. But for how long?


I've been preoccupied with this idea that all things end. I mean, obviously, yes. But in each of our lives, we did something that was once significant for the last time. The very last time ever.

But those moments come and go, they pass without fanfare. There is no hallelujah chorus, no finale, no curtain call, no debriefing, no official notice. It's just.... over.

My grandmother walked out of her home one day in May of 2010 and took a spill in the driveway. She didn't die, but she was injured badly enough that she needs constant care. We were all so relieved and thankful that she survived that all the rest didn't matter.

And in the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter that she will never again see the home she lived in for 55 years. She will never again see her flowers bloom or pick raspberries or ask her son to rake the leaves. That part of her life (and subsequently our lives) changed in an instant and changed for all time. She looked in the mirror of the mudroom for the last time ever that day. She walked unassisted for the last time ever that day. And there was no warning.

We decided to start giving Liliane formula when she was 3 months old. She wasn't sleeping well, she was irritable and we were exhausted. My sister (bless her) having raised 5 children at that point suggested we try it and our baby was completely changed. Happy, content and sleeping like an angel. A decision that we did not regret. I continued to breastfeed her in the night until one day, we just stopped. I don't know what the date was, it wasn't planned, but one night it was the last time I would breastfeed my daughter. Ever.

Now that Liliane is a big sister, I can see her growing up at a ridiculous speed. Maybe it's the comparison between 4 years old and 4 months old, but it has struck me recently that she doesn't seem to need me. Of course that's not true, she just doesn't need me in the same way.  And just like one day I didn't hold my Dad's hand as we crossed the street or my Mom's hand in the mall, Liliane won't need to hold my hand anymore either.

And it will be the last time I ever hold her hand.

Holy cow, I am re-reading this entry and it all sounds crazy, but I've had this on my mind for a few years now and I think it's important to acknowledge these tiny passages. To acknowledge the Last Time. It's not morbid, it's not sad, it's life.  We need for these big change to pass imperceptibly. Or at least I do anyway.

So how do I deal with this? I work on cherishing every moment, even the crappy ones.  Not in a greeting card way, but I know a few years from now I'll be at my computer, all choked up, reminiscing about how great it was to fight about bathtime or how sore my nipples were from breastfeeding. Or how it's weird that our kids don't call out for us in the night anymore. Which is a good thing!

But today I want to pay tribute to those changes, to those passages that leave their mark on us physically and spiritually. To write it all down so I can read this entry 5 years from now and laugh about how hormones took over my blog for a day :)

So whatever you're doing these days, enjoy it! And remember, the good news is that the Last Time brings wonderful NEW things.


Carolee said...

What a wonderful, moving post. And I completely agree that, sometimes, a last thing has to happen before a new first thing can occur. Having your oldest baby move far away but then the first time you hold her baby and marvel at her shock of strawberry blond hair and little turned up nose; having your parents be just 2 minutes away from you now instead of an hour away; saying goodbye to your childhood home but knowing that means everyone's living close to each other again, and a hundred other things like that. So marvelous how God always fill the hole of things past with something even richer!

Anonymous said...

Oh Theresa, thank you for this wonderful piece. You have a powerful pen girl. We all have a lot of last times. And yes, enjoying all that is given to us as we go along is a big part of being able to live with the last times...
Love you

Kilby P. Cottingham said...

A particularly wonderful post, T. It’s beautifully written about a surprising and bittersweet aspect of the human condition. Thank you! With your permission,I’ll copy “There is no hallelujah chorus, no finale, no curtain call, no debriefing, no official notice” into my Notebook of Terribly Good Things Other People Have Written.

Theresa said...

Oh thank you all for the comments! I think this is probably my favourite post of all time. Feels so good to finally get it out. @Mama :) xo @Caro Love you too.@Kilby I would be beyond thrilled to be part of your Very Important Notebook!

julie said...

This is something that's also on my mind a lot. I think it has a lot to do with having small children who grow a little bit bigger every day. Oddly enough, I'm going through it with my dogs now - will this be the last time I walk her in the snow?

The one thing to remember is that endings always lead to new beginnings.

Beautiful post, Theresa.

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