I'm not entirely sure why I chose 4:00 a.m. to have a mid life crisis, but sure enough, there I was, wide awake and in a complete panic about getting older and running out of time to do all the things I want to do... before it's too late. Reviewing my bucket list.
I should have seen it coming. The night before we celebrated my "baby's" 10th anniversary of his 7th birthday. Cake, candles, a bag full of all the goodies a boy could want and a big plate of fettuccine alfredo his way, with chunks of roast chicken and crispy pancetta.
He towers over me now. I'm not sure how (or when) that happened, but I noticed again as he bent down to hug me when we got up from dinner. "Thanks Mom," he said, and he tried to give me one of those 'teenage' hugs I've grown accustomed to. Nope. Not this time buddy. I squeezed him tight. A real hug. There aren't too many of them left, I fear.
My boss is about to retire. The other day she walked into my office and handed me an evaluation she did of me 25 years ago, when I was a young social worker just wet behind the ears. "Look what I found when I was cleaning out my files."
"Oh lord," I think I replied as I glanced at the date on the top of the evaluation. 25 years ago I made a phone call that changed my life. I was a young graduate student looking for an internship. 'Would she take me?' I asked this perfect stranger, somewhat timidly.
The rest, as they say, is history.
She was my teacher, my boss, my sometimes mother and my mentor. And over the years, I'm proud to say, she's become my friend. She is wise and compassionate and steady as a rock. She was there as I cut my professional teeth. There when I became a mother. She stood steady as I grew, through my successes and failures and she was there when I needed a shoulder to cry on.
Twenty five years is a long time.
And so it was no surprise that on the morning of my 4:00 a.m. meltdown, we sat in my office at the homeless shelter and talked about marking time, of raising children and growing older as the tears flowed down my face. "I don't feel older," I said aloud. Despite one kid in college and one soon on the way, I still feel 30 something and yet... She nodded. I didn't have to say much. She knew.
"How did you get to be seventeen?" I asked my brown-eyed baby boy. Truly. I don't know how it happened so fast.
"I don't feel seventeen," he said sweetly. He always knows the right thing to say.
This is the boy who promised me he would always be seven. The boy who wanted to be home schooled. Who'd rather be with the family than out with friends. Over the years he's stretched out a bit and even though he's grown taller and smarter, the little boy is still in there, peaking out from behind his big brown eyes.
And I always felt like there was plenty of time. Until the other day, when I realized that there really wasn't.
The clock is ticking. Children grow up. Bosses (and friends) retire. We get older and all of a sudden, the dreams we hold for someday wake us at 4 o'clock in the morning, wanting to be fulfilled.
Life marches on.