Old age is not for the faint of heart! To get there, you have to push through the birth canal, survive childhood, adolescence, peer-pressure, and acne. You go through High School, puppy love, and heartaches. You skip college, get a job and hopefully earn enough money to pay for the used car you bought. Then you fall in love. Get married. Get your own place. And have a kid.
Now the fun begins. With true grit, you battle with his temper tantrums, potty training and cutting up in kindergarten. In Junior and Senior High you struggle through the designer-clothes-thing you can’t afford to buy, wrecked cars, girlfriends from Hell, and strange ideas; like living in the wilderness some day. You feel his pain and heartaches, get frustrated when he rebels, and want to clip his wings but let him fly. You pray for him, lose sleep over him, and want nothing but the best for him.
Then, he gets married and leaves the nest to start a family of his own. You’re happy for him, but you cry and grieve for the mischievous little boy who once was but will never be again.
Then he has kids that feel just like your own. You play with them, read to them, make up stories for them. You dry their eyes, rock them to sleep and tell them how precious they are and how blessed you are to have them in your life.
Then they grow up and have kids of their own. But things are different this go around. Your kid is now the grandparent. It’s time to take a back seat and watch as his grandkids run to him, jump in his arms and giggle with delight as he tickles them. It’s his turn to feel the love and the joy of being a grandparent. It’s his turn to help guide and direct and let them fly. It’s his turn to shine.
By now, you are feeling like a shadow. A stranger in a world where great-grandparents struggle to belong. You know you are still loved, but no longer feel needed or that your opinions are as valuable as they once were. Like sitting in a drifting boat, things that were once bigger than life become tiny specks on the horizon. You cling to your memories, grieve for your losses, and long for the moments in time that once were but will never be again.
This is the part where you face the naked truth that it’s the way of life. That you can’t build your dreams on shifting sand; changing relationships, ideas and opinions. This is the part where we must lower our expectations to protect our fragile feelings from anger, bitterness, and resentment. This is the part where we stop pining for the good old days, keep pressing forward and live each day to its fullest. This is the gut-wrenching part where we must unclench our white-knuckled hearts and just let go.