In a recent post on his blog, A Satisfying Retirement, Bob Lowry wrote about his granddaughter comparing growing older to the most exciting part of a roller coaster ride, the ending with its big, exhilarating runs. It’s a great analogy: a roller coaster ride typically begins with a slow climb, and few tame dips and turns. As the ride continues things pick up, and twists and turns, climbs and drops begin coming at a faster pace, but the when and where are a mystery and add to the excitement and increase the thrill level. Finally, the car once more heads for the top to begin its big, exciting finale before finally slowing down and coasting to a stop.
Brett and my start together was like that initial slow climb. He was one of my first instructors in the navy, for a two-week course I was required to take for my rating following boot camp. It was pretty much love at first sight for both of us, and as soon as the two-weeks were over we began dating, and before long we were talking about our life together and how we saw that unfolding. There was never a distinct marriage proposal that either of us can remember, but somewhere along the way we both realized we wanted to spend the rest of our lives with the other. We’ll celebrate 42 years together next year while we’re in Tokyo.
Just like a ride on a roller coaster Brett and I have already passed through two distinct phases in our married life: our beginning years while he served in the navy followed by a second phase in civilian life and raising our daughters. Both time periods were very different from the other, full of twists, turns and surprises (not all of which were pleasant), but we had different goals and expectations during each one, and in hindsight both phases were positive for the most part. We were always looking to the future. The segue from the first into the second phase was fairly bumpy, but we somehow managed to get over and through those bumps and came out stronger than before. Our life choices, especially adopting three additional children in our mid- to late-forties were not the ones that most people would make, and we’ve paid or are still paying for some of the choices we’ve made, but as Brett and I have always said, we can’t imagine now having done things any other way. We chose the right coaster for us.
Brett and I have been raising children for most of our time together. Other than the short time we had before our son was born there was only a six month period with an empty nest after our son headed off to college and before we brought Meiling home. Before I met Brett I had no dreams or desires to have children, let alone four of them. Or, to have them in two separate groups with a nearly twenty-year gap between them. However, that’s how it happened, and of all my life’s accomplishments so far I am most proud of my children, of their efforts and accomplishments and the adults they’ve become. Our goal has always been to give our children roots, but wings as well so that when it’s been time for them to leave the nest they would be able to fly. It’s been exciting and rewarding to watch each of them take off and soar, with their wings spread wide.
We’re segueing now into a third phase, a time when Brett and I will also leave our nest and spread our wings. For the last 40 years our lives have been completely entwined with our children, with our schedules determined by their schedules, our plans and finances controlled by their needs. But, beginning in August it will just be the two of us, and we are ready to fly. I am so excited about being able to explore the world with my best friend, the person that knows me best, but I also realize it’s going to feel “different” for a while. It’s going to take time for me to adjust to not having children to accommodate in one way or another. Thankfully the segue into this third phase has been easier so far than it was between the first and the second because I think we’ve done a better job this time of preparing ourselves for the transition.
A roller coaster ride has been my metaphor for life for a while now. As my mom approached the end of her life a couple of years ago I kept thinking of roller coasters, and what a ride she had, and I’m beginning to see my life in the same way. Are Brett and I making that last big climb to the top? I don’t know right now, but we are preparing for an exciting finale that will hopefully go on for a good long while. Our ride up until now has been full of thrills, chills and surprises but it’s never been dull. And, like Bob’s granddaughter pointed out, I believe the best and most exciting part is yet to come!