As we released from a hug, I innocently said "Congratulations on making cheerleader." My daughter grinned and said "Thanks Dad.” It was then that it hit me.
"Have a nice day at school" squirmed out of my mouth and I turned to walk away choking back a few tears. My daughter had made another cheer team. Both our girls made dozens of teams before. This one was different. It was the last time I would ever utter those words of congratulations to one of them again.
Our last child. One year of high school left. This was the first of many "last times."
It should have come to mind before now. My wife called the previous afternoon and said some of the moms were getting together for a drink while the girls were at tryouts. It was a tradition and she wanted to go "because this is going to be the last time for us to do this." Yet, it didn't register. Was I listening? I remember the conversation. I recall the precise words. I guess I didn't recognize the finality in her voice.
This is what happens when one gets too focused on doing the next thing. We narrow our vision and fail to slow down and embrace or curse the moment. I don't want to mislead anyone. Slowing down and observing is likely to reveal things that are not all that pleasant. Yet, I'll take a dozen of those for just one gem.
My hope is that I will slow down. Stop multitasking and use all my senses. I want to discover the essential and see how many "last times" I can find. It is a good thing I always carry a handkerchief. Blotting a lot of tears means that I am paying attention for once.
Run in Peace, Rest in Grace