Measuring Life

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“It’s graduation week at my old school.” I wrote that line in a post 13 years ago this week, and it’s true again. I had a nephew graduating from my old school then; this week it’s a niece. Here’s more of that old post, with commentary. Some links have been updated or added.

The Mrs. and I have no children of our own, so we watch our nephews and nieces grow, and we measure our lives by theirs. It’s not just living vicariously through their experiences. It’s re-living too.

Another of our nephews is ending his junior year. At the end of that year, I was in love, and I felt like I had life pretty much figured out. That was the summer I started off by working at the gas station and the grocery store, but early August I had quit one job and been fired from the other. Got your life figured out? Not so fast, kid.

That nephew is one of the lucky people who set his eye on a very specific dream job and then got it. It’s too soon to know how everything will turn out for him, but so far, so good.

Still another nephew is wrapping up eighth grade. Sometime that spring—and it might as well have been the last week of May—we had that fire in our house, the one that reshaped the whole summer.

I used to believe that nephew was going to become either a novelist or a stoner. He is neither today, but he still has a unique personality among our entire brood.

A couple of our nephews just turned 10. Like they are, I would have been wrapping up fourth grade. One of them is deeply into sports, as I was. The other is a bright, earnest little guy who reminds me of myself, nurturing his pet obsessions and eager to be liked. Let’s hope for his sake he doesn’t go full geek over the next several years, as his uncle did.

The one who was deeply into sports still is, a talented college baseball player who graduated this week and now has to figure out what’s next beyond baseball. The “bright, earnest little guy” did not go full geek; he soon became the coolest person in any room he walked into, and he still is.

I have one niece and one nephew who are turning eight this year; one is finishing second grade and the other first. In my life, those years were time without a calendar, as all time was before the fall of 1970. In first grade and half of second, I rode the bus to Lincoln School … Midway through second grade, many of my friends and I transferred to newly built Northside School, which seemed like a great adventure then, but was also a lesson in the profound effects of change.

The niece is now in college. The nephew went to tech school and got off to a rocky start in his chosen career, but things are better now. I have no doubt that he’s been imbued with the same sense of responsibility his father and his uncles got growing up, and he’ll be fine.

How many kids are left to count? A nephew who’s six, a niece who’s five, a nephew who’s four—representing years that are hazier still, first days of kindergarten and days before that, toys on the dining room floor, overnights at Grandma’s house, and back to the very beginning of everything.

The nephew who was six grew up believing he was bound for college, then decided college was not his proper path and found a better one. The nephew who was four is an athlete like his brother. Since my original post was written, we added one more niece, who will soon be 12, and we look forward to seeing who she’s going to be.

The nephew who graduated in 2010 is married now and is one of the good people in this world. The niece who was five in 2010 is the one graduating this weekend, bound for the college The Mrs. and I attended, which pleases us greatly.

I worry for these kids. Their futures are deeply uncertain, through absolutely no fault of their own. I have not asked any of them if they’re worried, however, and I don’t plan to. When you are young, the future is what it is. You face it a day at a time, and you do the best you can in the moment. I hope these kids will do better with their moments than my generation did with ours.

2 thoughts on “Measuring Life

  1. Love this time of year. Love looking back… then just like you… staying there as long as I can… finally peeking out to think about the future. Love your descriptions of the “coolest person in the room” and “one of the good people in this world.” I was never the former but work hard on being the latter. As always, love your thoughts on life.

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