Sunday, July 18, 2010

Embracing Change

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.

- Anatole France

This afternoon, my children and I are leaving to visit Maine for a week. It will be our third year that the children will attend day camp and I’ll hang out with my father. I’ve loved this yearly routine. Until recently, I wondered how long he’d attend the camp or if he might soon become a counselor in training. Now I wonder if this will be the last year of our brief tradition.

I hinted at some of my family’s story in my Mother’s Day post about my father*. When I was nineteen, attending a local college, my parents finally divorced. My father rented a house nearby for him, my sister, and me. There he stayed for nine years until he got new job. But before he left, I lived one town over while I worked part-time and attended school full time. My dad and I spent a lot of time together, and it wound up being especially fun when I watched my nephew once a week. Soon after he moved, I gave birth to my son, and my father would visit pretty often since it was only about an hour-and-a-half away.

Stuck in a job he didn’t love, he finally retired several years later. By then I had my second child and lived in Cambridge. He moved to Maine, which meant that he was less than three hours away, and we still saw one another pretty often. My father finally had the life he’d dreamed of: owning his own place in a fairly rural area, living near the ocean, hiking, kayaking, and volunteering.

Then he started dating, which has made his life richer, even if it means he’s busier than he used to be. It’s good that he’s busier, but we see him less. That’s why I’ve treasured this weeklong summer visit.

Three months ago, my father announced that he and his girlfriend were going to sell their places and look for a new place to live. My first reaction was to be happy for them. My next was that I probably wouldn’t have to endure all the mosquitoes that live on his property every summer. (Each time we must run from the car to the house, and from the house to the car, and then kill whatever mosquitoes sneak in behind the slammed doors before they eat us alive. My poor daughter got bitten on the forehead just before we left last year, and the spot swelled up like a golf ball.)

But in the last few weeks my husband said something like, “I guess this will be the last year the kids will be in camp.” The camps are right by my father’s house, but soon his house will be forty-five minutes north. It probably won’t make sense to send my son next year. My daughter has always done one of the YMCA camps, so she’s more flexible. But my son’s camp is for wilderness survival, so it’s his kind of way to spend a week.

I can’t imagine next summer. Where will he live? How big will it be? What will it be like to visit two people instead of one?

When I first dated my now-husband, I’m sure the change of having another person in my life was weird for my dad. He’d just gotten divorced, so it was a chance for a fresh start. But I was already an adult and spent a lot of time at my boyfriend’s house. In fact, he’d even set up a makeshift desk for me in his room – a piece of marble atop two file cabinets. This routine had been in place in the midst of the divorce chaos, so it continued. And I had an open invitation for dinner at his house. His family made me feel comfortable, and I liked spending time with them.

Because I feel like much of my life has been uncertain, I crave stability like a dieter craves cake. Routine. Uncertain change looming in the not-so-distant future has often made me uneasy.

In the end, I’m sure our visits won’t be much different. In fact, they’re planning to move in an area that I prefer. We’ll start a new tradition. As family members come and go, families accommodate. Adapt. I’ll look back at this summer as well as the two prior summers, and reminisce of what a nice period of time it was. But then I’m sure I’ll have some other routine that I’ll appreciate, and worry about its end someday.

When things in my life are going well, I have this urge to hold on tight to it and keep it forever. But we can only do that in our memories. I remember when I was in my early twenties, appreciating that nobody close to me had died since I was two-years-old. But when I was twenty-three, my paternal grandmother died. Along with shock and grief, I thought, “I knew this time would come.”

After my daughter was born, I knew we didn’t plan to have any more children. For each milestone she’d reach, I’d be saddened to know it was my last time I’d get to live in that moment.

I battle to be more present-minded. If I mourn what I should be enjoying as it occurs, I’m not really enjoying it, am I? When I look back, most change has been good so I’m going to make a greater effort to embrace change.

I’m going to be busy and my Internet access will be limited this week. But I’ll check on my post and yours when I can. Have a great week!

* Mother’s Day post:


  1. Change is a scary and exciting thing! At least you have a lot of great memories going up to Maine to visit him.

    The best way to live is to live in the moment, which is especially hard for me to do because I'm always thinking about the future.

  2. I understand the complicated relationships...and I'm so very glad you and your father there for you and your sister. Change is difficult for me, too-always waiting on the next catastrophe taught me to not trust the future. I've learned to breathe a little now...

    You've gained lots of wisdom through your journey and thank you for sharing it. I'm going to try to incorporate your perspective into my own and be less afraid.

    I hope your week is fun and full.

  3. Oh I'm the same darn way ... In the midst of a happy day, or event, I'll feel a melancholy at the thought that this happy time will soon be over. I just want it to go on and on. But I feel that feeling, own it, then return to enjoying the event. So I totally get what you're saying.

    Have a great week. Oh, and P.S. Have you seen the ads for the new Off mosquito repellants? You just clip them on your clothes and somehow they keep the bugs away? Maybe one will help with the mosquitoes!

  4. Change is scary and exciting. You never know if it's going to benefit you or seperate you from the time you used to cherish, but at least you know it will benefit and happy your father and I know that at the end of the day you'll sneak in those weeklong visits and really enjoy life just as you are right now.

    I'm all with you getting rid of the mosquito problem!

  5. Change always seems to throw us... but it's better to try and roll with the punches than mourn over what used to be :)

    Have a wonderful trip!

  6. You're right - you'll make new traditions, and then someday you won't want to let those go either. And I'm glad you're happy for your dad - you must like his girlfriend, so that's great! I hope you're having a wonderful visit. :)

  7. I think my parents deal with me growing up by thinking "In X years, we will be doing this with our grandchildren!" So while you might not get to relive those moments with your own kids, you always can with your grandchildren, and I like to think it will be even more special the second time around--because your children will be there to experience it as parents, too, right?

  8. Change is good but can be a little scary, but your dad is always going to be your dad.
    Have a great time and enjoy every moment, I am on hols from next saturday and I will have no access to the internet so speak to you sometime in early August!

  9. Oh wow - these are some changes not only in your life but to those around you - in restrospect they all seem to be driving forces towards where you are now! I love that your dad has a new lease of life - a new beginning almost! It's kind of a goodbye for you - well not goodbye - more a closure to what had been before and now for something new!! And thoroughly exciting!!

    Enjoy your visit to Maine!! Enjoy your dad and the kids camping trip and savour every moment!

    take care

  10. Take lots of pictures. Think of them as memory holders.

  11. Oh Theresa, change is so tough sometimes, that's true. But you have an excellent attitude about things to come, and I'm sure you'll do the same as you've done in the past: create new traditions based on your appreciation for family.

    Have an excellent vacation, and we'll chat with you when you get back.

  12. I love this line: "I strive to be more present minded" - that's such an important thing for us to remember. It's so easy to live in the past of the future. Enjoy the now!

  13. It's true - change can be scary and exciting, but you're absolutely right - we need to live for the now. Stressing over what "might" happen, or what "didn't" tends to drive us crazy!

    I'm glad you have so many happy memories to remember :)

  14. I connected with what you said about the milestones with your daughter, being bittersweet. I do that to myself too. Now that they are all walking/talking/potty trained, it's slowed, but not eliminated.

  15. Change IS hard! But that's where the most growth happens, I suppose. The thought of my dad dating after my mom is gone makes me cringe, especially when my mom brings up the topic. :o(

    In other happy news, you need to stop by my blog and see what you won!

  16. Hey Theresa,
    It's great that you've already been able to identify your need for stability. YOu can take that knowledge and tackle the new challenges ahead. I'll be next summer will be different, but different in a good way.
    I hear you about the mosquitos--my daughter got a bite on her forehead a few weeks ago and her whole forehead, bridge of her nose, and left eye swelled up. I hardly recognized her. Luckily her pediatrician said to just use benadryl and it got better. But man, I hate mosquitos!

  17. It sounds like you are very aware of yourself as you progress through life, and you make way in the things you undertake... I imagine that must be a significant asset to a writer and a sound foundation for wisdom to boot. : j

  18. Well first...have FUN in Maine. :) I don't miss those 'squitos. Not one bit.
    Too bad our timing wasn't better...we could met up. :(
    (I know you already mentioned that, but I second the notion)

    I won't get into my family background (it's just too ugly), but it does make me extra grateful to have the wonderful husband (and marriage) that I am blessed to have, and I feel good about the life we give our daughter. She's a teen now, so she doesn't always realize how lucky she is (though, mostly she does).

    Live in the present, enjoy each moment.

    And, I wish I had a parent worth visiting.
    Count your blessings.

    Safe travels.

  19. It is soooo hard not to hold on to the sweet moments and traditions in our life. I completely understand.

    And you're right--everytime I think that I'm not comfortable with a change, I adapt, the whole family adapts, and things still stay sweet and wonderful. Just different.

    Best wishes for the transition :)

  20. @ Aubrie, I think a lot of about the future too. Writers can't help it, I think.

    @ The Words Crafter, it's good to know my writing helps in some way. My mother had an injury when I was a teen, so I'm always expecting the next catastrophe too.

    @ Joanne, I should try those mosquito repellents. So far, it's not as buggy this time.

    @ Jen, my dad and his girlfriend are good about letting there be alone time with the family. I'm sure that will continue to some extent.

    @ Maybe Genius, rolling with the punches is good advice.

  21. @ Susan, my dad's girlfriend is nice. He deserves to have someone nice in his life.

    @ Kari, aack! I can't picture being a grandparent yet, but as my kids get older, I'm sure I'll be just like your parents.

    @ Brigid, I'll miss you. I will have to make it a point to visit your blog before you lose Internet access.

    @ Old Kitty, it's been a great trip so far, and I plan to savor/savour every moment.

    I like your point that it's a closure instead of a goodbye.

    @ Liz, taking pictures is a great way to remember. Thanks for reminding me.

  22. @ Julie, only recently have I realized that making my way through marriage and children has resulted in our own unique traditions. Kinda awesome.

    @ Jemi, that sentence I wrote isn't bad. Gotta remember that!

    @ WritingNut, I always liked that sort-of phrase, "Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda." It reminds us not to make excuses.

    @ Vicki, I still do it too. My daughter has just about lost any little girl in her, and she's kind of big when she fold into my lap. She turns eight in less than a week. Where did the time go?

    @ Jackee, reading what you wrote made me cringe. I'm sure you don't want to hear that now. But in a way, it's nice that she's giving permission for people to move on.

  23. @ Lydia, I passed by one of the houses they're considering today, and it kind of made me excited too.

    My daughter's head and the top of her nose swelled up too. She looked... well... special.

    @ Alesa, I try to act like my own therapist, analyzing myself. I hope my past, along with my analysis of it helps me as a writer.

    @ Lola, I'm sorry I missed you too.

    My children have a vague notion of my childhood. So when my son used to say, "You're a mean mom," I'd think, You don't know how much worse it can be...

    @ MBW aka Olleymae, I agree. We stress about change, it comes, life is a little different but it winds up being no big deal.

  24. Your relationship with your dad sounds wonderful. I crave routine as well, and it has been difficult moving far away from all of my family and friends a decade ago--but their are many good things that could only happen through the changes that we have faced.

    I hope you have a nice week.

  25. I believe there is something positive in all change and that it serves us better to embrace it than to fight it. It is inevitable. Nothing ever stays the same, not entirely.

    I find myself craving change, needing change. Too much time in one place and I get antsy. Ten years in Nashville, one in Ohio, six years here (in Cambridge) and I'm starting to yearn for California, actually thinking about moving back. I can't help but wonder if there might be big change in our future and I look forward to embracing it, whatever it may be!

    As you said, there will be new traditions for you and your family and you will always have the wonderful memories of the old. Congratulations to your dad; he really does deserve to have what he wants in his life and to be happy. Enjoy your time with him and never stop looking forward to times to come, wherever they may be. :-)

  26. This is a really touching post. I enjoy family traditions as well. But it seems life is really about change. It keeps me on my toes. There is something about life that just just never wants to be encapsulated. When I look back, I try always to look back in thankfulness.

  27. @ Slamdunk, moving away was hard for me too. I never want to be so far that I can't stop in for a weekend.

    @ Selena, I can tell you miss California. I don't even want to think about you leaving!

    Barbra, good point. We need change even if it makes life uncertain once in awhile. I try to remember that.

  28. There are people who thrive on change.

    I'm not one of them, Theresa. It took my house burning to the ground to get me out of a neighborhood that had become dangerous.

    Enjoy the moments with your father and children. None of us are promised next summer.

    Come check out my 24HOURS scenario blog experiment when you have the time. Tell me if I've gone completely crazy.

    Provided as a courtesy only :

    Thanks, Roland

  29. @ Roland, that house burning/bad neighborhood comment sounds like there's a good story behind it.

    I'm on my way to see if you've gone completely crazy, but I'm sure you haven't.

  30. I am finding lots of 'lasts' this year to ponder on. My son is in his last year of school and I try and hold onto specific memories/feelings during 'last' instances. eg: last game of cricket/rugby for his school. I remember just stopping. Looking around. Taking it in. And holding onto the 'present' like a hug. It is hard but also (as you said) so important to enjoy it, not just mourn its passing.

    Your referred post (about your Dad) was so touching. My goodness ... x

  31. @ Clutterbug, you recently had such a sweet post about your feelings about this time.

    I'm glad you liked the other post. My father was so proud of it, he shared it with a few of his friends.