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Milestones in Our Life

In Nostalgia, Richard's Ramblings by Richard Parker0 Comments

Richard Parker

Richard Parker

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Richard Parker is a speaker, author and consultant in the financial and RV industries,
Richard Parker

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I remember, like it was yesterday, dropping my granddaughter off at FSU to begin her freshman year. The three days before, I drove alone, nearly two thousand miles on a business trip, armed with only my memories and Cousin Brucie of the Sirius satellite radio sixties channel. This combination is guaranteed to conjure eclectic emotions from a warm smile that can instantly turn to a belly laugh and then trigger a single tear disappearing into an increasingly gray beard, all in the span of a single Beach Boys love song chorus. Yes, the boomer generation has morphed from the “don’t trust anyone over thirty” generation to a bunch of crybabies craning their necks for one more glimpse of the golden days of their youth.

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This writing is the by-product of the convergence of a quartet of thought-provoking ingredients that came together on that “perfect storm” of a drive: a hefty chunk of alone time, the fond memories of days gone by, the best music ever created, and another milestone of life fading in the rearview mirror. Yes, indeed, time marches on as we each pass the milestones of our life.

In the early years, our milestones passed with the blazing velocity of a Florida softshell turtle, waddling under the blaze of the coastal subtropic sun, and with a lack of fanfare that could easily induce a much- needed afternoon nap for an aging boomer. These milestones did not seem like much of a happening as they passed; they just happened as we continued to plod through our life. That first day in the first grade, Jr. and Sr. High, and graduation all come to mind interlaced with a host of other memorable milestones.

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The milestone of that first all-by-yourself bike ride around your home block was eventually replaced with the grand theft of that first awkward, yet long-awaited, kiss. Today, it is impossible for me to hear Tommy James sing “I Think We’re Alone Now,” without sparking an inner glow as I remember that wooded area behind the 25th Street Little League ballpark.

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The small patch of trees was strategically located just outside the floodlight-bathed area that was our pre-Internet social gathering place. This place whose lack of direct lighting, proximity to a required periodic accountability check for the ever-vigilant eyes of parents, was shrouded in low-hanging scrub oak branches and a comfy foliage-covered ground, combining to make the perfect place to recline into the newfound bliss of adolescent experimentation.

Children behave
that’s what they say when we’re together
and watch how you play
they don’t understand
and so we’re running just as fast we can
holding onto one another’s hand
trying to get away into the night
and then you put your arms around me
as we tumble to the ground
and then we say

Chorus:
I think we’re alone now
There doesn’t seem to be anyone around
I think we’re alone now
The beating of our hearts is the only sound

Look at the way
We gotta hide what we’re doing
Cause what would they say
If they ever knew
and so we’re running just as fast as we can
holding onto one another’s hand
trying to get away into the night
and then you put your arms around me
as we tumble to the ground
and then we say…

I think we’re alone now
There doesn’t seem to be anyone around
I think we’re alone now
The beating of our hearts is the only sound

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Next, it was the milestones of college for some, the military for others, with both becoming the prelude to a lifetime of hard work for all. Some of us zigged while others zagged, thinking little of milestones, as we entered and exited matrimonial amalgamations, some at a frightening pace. The ebb and flow of these unions littered the landscape of our lives with offspring and step-kids that would cause us to bite our nails, hold our breath, and on occasion, beam with pride as we pinned a bit of our dreams to their lapels.

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As the younger generation began to pass their milestones, we were slowly, yet steadily, relegated to the unholy trinity of spectator, cheerleader, and, sometimes, safety net for their journeys, which amble on with an eerie resemblance of our own less-than-perfect passage. Yes, indeed, time marches on.

With a mishmash of battle-hardened experience, a splash of pride for remaining upright and out of jail, mixed with maybe just a dash of regret, we march toward more of life’s milestones, some of which we willingly seek, and some we would have given anything to avoid. A parent’s passing is by far one of the worst. The event is accompanied with a rush of memories, of words left unsaid or deeds undone, and an undeniable emptiness of being truly alone for the first time in our life. So many times since my wonderful mother left for her heavenly home, leaving my brother and me only one fragile life away from becoming an orphan, I have thought of something I wanted to share with her or a question I wish I had asked. But, indeed, that milestone, now passed, makes both impossible, adding just another small regret of life.

But through this all, we still have many exciting and bright moments to which to look forward. In my case, nothing shines more brightly than the love I have for my grandkids and the excitement I feel as I watch their lives blossom.

boomers-cruzin-grandchildrenBecause of falling in love, now more than three decades ago, with a woman a few years older than I am, whose family seems blessed with the “I can’t wait for kids” gene, I find myself blessed with three wonderful grandkids: Brittney, 21, the catalyst for this Rambling and headed quickly to the distinction of the state’s newest FSU Seminole graduate; 17-year-old McKenna, who would bleed Gator Blue and Orange if cut; and my namesake, 15-year-old Beau (how is that for a Southern name) Parker Cole, whom we might need to send to UCF or Miami just to make sure the state is covered and that there is never peace in the family during Thanksgiving dinner.

Let me warn you—the word step has never been, nor will it ever be, a prefix to any of this group. As Sister Sledge put it, “We Are Family.” That sense of family has this lifelong Gator fan willingly trading in his decades-long and perfected Gator chomp for a Seminole chop, just because of my Grandpa-pride.

When “the family” converged on the south parking lot of Kellum Hall at Florida State University Brittney’s freshman year, we looked like a cross between a supply-laden wagon train beginning its journey west and a band of gypsies heading to the carnival. Our unstated, yet universally, understood twofold missions were 1) to move Brittney into her dorm and 2) to, one last time, embarrass the heck out of her. I believe that most viewing our well-orchestrated operation from the sidelines would agree that we kicked the ball through the uprights on both counts.

We all brought our level of skill, expertise, and resources to the party. While Britt and her Wow (Parker-speak for grandmother) followed the rules, patiently waiting in the long line of students signing in and retrieving their dorm room key, I greased the palm of a maintenance man at the back door of the dorm to gain early access through the bowels of the almost fifty-year-old building. It was worth the well-placed cash to see Brittney’s face when she arrived at her doom door to find the 700 cubic feet of “absolute necessities” lining the hall on both sides of her door ready for the Keystone cop-type act that would follow, as she, her mom, and her Wow attempted to stack, store, and eventually cram it all into 50 percent of the 150 square-foot dorm room.

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After the micro-sized microwave, coffeepot, and octopus bedspread had been properly installed, and all closets, drawers, and desk had been stuffed to just past capacity, I began the less-than-exciting task of taking the 500 cubic feet of “not-so-absolute necessities” back to the half-dozen vehicles that had arrived on campus a mere three hours earlier.

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Too soon, it was time for us to leave and allow Brittney to begin her new life, one in which she would set her hours, choose what and when she ate, and succeed or fail on her merit. As I pressed the accelerator and gained speed heading east on I-10, I thought back on the past eighteen years, years in which my primary concern was to keep her safe and protected, and the many business trips it took to earn the money to make this first day at college possible. Now, I was just driving off and leaving her to fend for herself. I could not help thinking that the on-ramp in my rearview mirror was another milestone passed.

Keepin’ the Spirit Alive

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