I watched him walk slowly and purposefully down the hall- each step a chore; his body no longer cooperating with his needs. I watched him as he sat down in the big recliner with a groan. He pulled out his Bible from the nearby shelf and opened a cover so tattered it looked like some serious prayers had been launched up to the heavens over the years.
In the otherwise quiet house, long since emptied of such enthusiastic life, my kids ran around the room and wriggled on the couch across from his chair, squealing and laughing, feet flying overhead.
“Shhhh! Sit down guys, feet on the floor!” I reprimanded, suddenly self-conscious and embarrassed, feeling a bit like my crazy life may be a burden to my grandfather who was now very accustomed to slow movements and quiet days.
“Oh, they’re OK!” he exclaimed. “These are the days! They will be gone before you know it, let them play!”
I looked at his tattered Bible, and his worn leather hands and I knew it was true.
As a kid, I had looked at his hands and thought that those strong, leathery hands must have come from a lifetime of living—a lifetime I only thought of as an abstract idea. To me, a lifetime was an incredibly long time that must take forever to get through. And old age? Well, that was just something that happened to some people after a very very long time; that would never be my reality.
As an adult now, I think back to those innocent childhood thoughts and my breath catches in my throat. What I realize now is that a lifetime is so short. Just a few blinks really.
I could already see it slipping by, so stunningly, beautifully, and oh so quietly. Yesterday I had brought my daughter home from the hospital as a brand new mom, and today she was sitting on my grandfather’s couch—a surreal image of myself as a child—telling her brothers to quiet down.
Later today my sons would play under the big oak trees in my grandfather’s yard that had once provided summer shade to me as a girl. Tomorrow my youngest son would be riding his bike on his own, and the day after that it would be time for drivers ed, and soon enough I would drive my kids to college and watch as they walked away from me.
Like a ghost world of the still living, I sat in that living room and could see my grandmother, now gone, sitting with my aunt, and uncle, and then my own father at the piano bench. I could hear the sweet melody she played for her kids. I could see my father as an ornery little boy throwing a baseball in the house, and my now-aged grandpa raising his voice in protest of baseball games inside.
I could see it all so clearly, and yet so far gone.
These are the days, I thought.
These are the days when my sons are so excited to tell me about their latest adventures, and what tricks they played on each other, and about how one brother is annoying the other.
These are the days when my sweet hearted daughter wants to color with me for “just a little bit” before bedtime.
These are the days when my 2-year-old refuses his blanket and flings it on the floor before bedtime, despite my sense of control and pleading that he will be cold. The days when I go back in after he is asleep and put it on him anyway, and kiss my finger to place on his fat little cheek while he sleeps so peacefully.
This is the time when I appreciate my husband coming home, still young and strong, holding and kissing me after a long day away.
These are the days when an impromptu trip to the zoo is met with squeals of delight over the promise of riding the Choo Choo Train and seeing the giant magical elephants.
This is the time of first best friends, and just-because hugs, and a 2-year-old saying, “I wuv you mama,” and of an almost-tween still opening her heart to her momma—talking about boys and secrets she doesn’t want her daddy to know about her ever-changing world just yet.
This is the time. There is no better time coming. These days are filled with firefly catching and sparklers in July, swimming parties and Spiderman pajamas. This is the time of chocolate milk mustaches, sticky fingers, little league soccer, running naked after bath time, amazingly sweet kisses, and begging mommy to bounce on the trampoline too.
Watching my grandfather watch my children with amazement and joy in his beautiful, incredibly wise eyes made me catch my breath again.
He says it again to this tired momma, as if he knew that I needed the reminder: “Oh yes, these are the days.”
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