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September 7, 2014

Sometimes change is permanent.

Parents feel closer to antiquity as they drop off children into new academic crockpots of offspring evolution. Most feel even closer at graduation when the 4 year cookery is served up. Then even closer at offspring marriage. Yet closer at offspring offspringing into parenthood.

But those are evolutions of a continuum: parent:child.

There are changes that terminate continuums.

One son lived a decade in orchestras, the other on football teams. Both had high level skills for their venues, but the NFL and professional musicianship are only available to the tiny minority of the tiny minority who play football or music beyond high school.

Yes, the musician teaches, and sings, and may play informally for the rest of his life, the athlete may coach, but neither will ever describe themselves as a player again.

Breaks happen. Despite our desperate attempts to rationalize everything, to take the heat off, to vitiate the potential for irreversible error, we make choices, or choices are made for us, that close doors. In the Pollyanna make up call of feel good yada yada new doors may open, but some doors are shut tight in front or behind us.

Like everyone else, I engaged in romances that grew to the point where they killed themselves: Growing up with another person for a year or six can term limit the relationship: It ends. The door is closed. Did its experience facilitate the next relationship? I guess. But that path ends.

Breaks are ends, not means.

I feel the absence of football every day, 40 years after it ceased. Not tragic, not Walter Mitty, but it is present in its absence. Its end got me nowhere, its presence changed me. I will never draft again, the computer killed that craft. I know buildings, existing and designed, because I drafted for 20 years, but I have not graphically determined a building in 20 years – and that is a permanent break.

These breaks resonate in technologically violent overthrows of continuums that once enveloped millions. No horses to ride, no vaudeville to entertain, no rabbit ears on TV to curse. Many breaks are quite positive, but for most of us hard stops are hard to take.

Some breaks are liberating: literally in laws for the oppressed. Most breaks induce ennui. I know the 20 years of being the parent of dependent children was the one period of my life where there was a single, focal, undeniable priority:  Protecting, nurturing and encouraging children.

That overwhelming, all-consuming macro/micro/OCD life organizing Prime Directive broke a few years ago, not at the college drop off, but in the taking up of self-determination with which children fire their life concierges.

The good and bad news is that, like every other life evolution, the older you get the fewer breaks lie ahead. The Ultimate Break is there, always, but since its aftermath is definitionally distinct from the life we live everyday its presence is more frame than portal. As shared relationships begin to inevitably break in death, those changes are permanent – and I am incapable of processing their resonant impacts.

But the dozens of small and large breaks we all experience are the inuring layers of perspective that give us functional coping, if not understanding.

Many of us seek permanencies amid the breaks: politics, hobbies, health, religion: but things we seek can be lost. The things that are embedded within us are unbreakable. My relationships with what and who I am genetically devoted to are unbreakable, as they are not choices but extensions of my little piece of reality. But they are a precious few.

So both sons broke with dominant life foci in the last year, never again to provide priority fundamentalism in their lives. The absence of what simply cannot be continued may induce nostalgia, and pain and longing, but resignation  does not mean depression – it just sucks.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Catherine Flynn-donovan permalink
    October 4, 2014 7:07 am

    Duo, you have eloquently put into words what I have been feeling. Son number one has graduated from college and I will no longer be a ‘baseball mom’. It is an empty feeling. I have lost my job. Although thrilled for my son to go off and spread his own wings and leave his own mark, there is a dull ache in my heart.


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