My sister called me towards the end of the summer and said “I think you should come on this trip. It’s been 25 years since we’ve been as a family, and this is probably going to be the last time we’re all going to be able to go together.”
The words “last trip as a family” echoed as the plane took from LAX. It felt a bit like a time warp. I was sitting next to my dad on a flight 25 years ago when he was a young post doc, about to start his career as a professor. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, he’d raised two kids and become a tenured professor planing a daughter’s wedding. And as I typed, and sipped my wine between sentences and paragraphs, I felt tears coming to my eyes, contemplating what Tim Urban has referred to as the tail end.
I used to hate these trips as a kid. India for the whole summer? Why? The summers felt like they were never going to end. From the moment we landed, all I could think about was the moment we’d take off from Mumbai, leaving the unbearable heat and heading back to America where we could finally see our friends, use toilet paper, and get back to our lives.
But with age, time accelerates. Days start to feel like hours, weeks like days, months like weeks, years like months, and decades like years all going by in a blink. And I can feel that pace in every minute even now, 48 hours with a friend until our next encounter, 2 days with a friend I haven’t seen in 10 years, and then surf camp in the motherland. It’s frenetic, and before long it will all morph from experience to memory.
Families are beautiful, messy and complex.” We fight, disagree, laugh and love. There are few things in life that force you to confront your mortality like watching your parents age. “Despite not being at the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in your life” says Tim Urban
We take if for granted that we can pick up the phone and they’ll always be there just to talk, we have a home where the doors are always open, and they’ll never let you leave without being fed, and that you’ll always receive that text asking if you’ve arrived safely even if you’re driving no more than an hour away.
If you’re fortunate enough to spend time with your aging parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, it’s worth reflecting on the final words of a friend who I lost earlier this summer: never take it for granted.
Before You Go
Note: This is an excerpt from a new collection of essays titled The Scenic Route: What I’ve Learned From a Life That Hasn’t Turned Out The Way I Thought It Would . If you want to be notified when it’s available click here.