Posted by: HAT | May 8, 2015

Milestones

teenager standing by a car holding her new temporary driver's license

A primary rite of passage for rural Hoosiers in the 21st century is the acquisition of a valid motor vehicle operator’s license, which involves a multi-step ritual of preparation, separation, private individual examination by the state votary, and then the receipt of a physical emblem of one’s acceptance by the extra-familial group as a member of the class of “drivers,” with the prestige and privileges that pertain to that class.

Hi, Gang!

According to my dictionary, a milestone is “a post, pillar or stone set up to indicate distance in miles from a given point.” I can see why it would also have acquired the sense of “an important event or turning point in a lifetime, career, etc.”

There’s an inherent ambiguity in milestones, it seems to me. Whatever they say – whether miles from a place, or miles to a place – they can’t help measuring both “to” and “from.” Milestones cannot but call attention to our chronic suspension between those poles. They give us pause. And in the pause, a place to notice that the only place we have is this in-between one.

I hate it when I have to sound like Heidegger.

But the milestones are getting closer and closer to each other around here, all of a sudden.

Our church is having a yard sale, so we are saying farewell to a lot of things that we have held on to for a long time. Furniture and old unloved Christmas stuff and gifts we got from people who clearly didn’t consider what they knew about us. “We need some space.” College text books for majors we have almost forgotten we ever had. “It’s served it’s purpose.” How-to books for hobbies we never quite picked up, or have long ago dropped. “It’s time to move on.” We are trying to honor the movement of the spirit, and the yard sale deadline, which also happens to be my birthday. We have a few days left.

I sent in my check for Clinical Pastoral Education tuition the other day, and got my pre-employment drug test – first one ever, something that shows my age, I suspect – so I am all ready, technically and procedurally, to start CPE on May 18. That happened Monday.

Number One Daughter got her driver’s license. That happened yesterday.

These are linked events, as being fully occupied 5+ days a week by CPE is possible only now that she can drive herself to summer swim team practices and whatever else she might have to do on summer break.

Of course, our goal as parents is to keep her alive and get her through childhood and into adulthood and independence and capability and solo flight …

But I had significantly underestimated the immediate impact of that particular milestone on my daily routine, and how I would actually feel about it …

And I sit here fully aware that there are people … people I know, dear friends … who would give their right arms for the chance to feel this very excruciating ambiguity, this awful empty sorrow, along with its crazy joy and uncomprehending astonished pride …

But dear God, it hurts.

So this is grace: I wanted to be such a good mother, and I have failed in that in so many ways, great and small, and nevertheless, there she is, alive, OK, better than OK, a whole world … and us still a part of it.

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