The Last Time
When's the last time someone asked you what superpower you'd choose to acquire given the opportunity?
I don't remember the last time I was asked this question, but I've decided that I know what I'd want my super power to be:
Knowing (and being able to indelibly remember in perfect detail) that it's the last time.
I wish I could remember where I was and under what circumstance I last carried my son. He was a big kid, and I remember very vividly the weight of his infant carrier when he was too young to walk. And I'm sure that sometime around his third or fourth birthday, he was too big and too tall and too independent to carry anymore. But I don't remember the last time he fit in my arms and I wish I did. I also wish I knew that the last time I carried him would be the last time that I carried him, so I could remember it.
There's something powerful about knowing that a moment is worth storing, and being able to capture it in the mysterious cobwebs of consciousness for later retrieval... and something so sad and human about believing that there will always be another memory to make. I think there are life events where we know it's a last- the final walkthrough of a home we've sold, the final time we leave a place for somewhere new, the end of a relationship when we can see the end coming, the last day of school. We also use this power when we know a loved one's body is aging and failing them... I can remember the last time I hugged my grandfather before he passed away, the way he smelled and the warmth of his embrace - but I knew with some degree of certainty that I might not have the chance to do this again. If only we could see all of the lasts, right???
A few weeks ago I was ruminating on this, and thinking about the Chocolate lab my parents had added to the family when we moved to Holloman when I was in high school. On a normal day, just like any other, puppy Holly - who was probably around a year old - woke me up for school. Dad had given her the command to 'get' me, and I remember vividly waking up to the pouncing and licking of a forty-pound teddy bear. It was the last time she would be my alarm clock.
Later that night, I was at work when I found out that my parents had taken Holly for a walk in an area where Dad could work on training her off-leash, and through some twisted series of events, someone in a truck ran her over. It was traumatic, returning to a house that was missing the presence of a puppy. She was just gone. I've always been grateful that my last memory of her was a good one, one that remains vivid to this day. But I didn't know it would be my last day with her, and that still haunts me.
Often when I talk to people about my military brat upbringing, I get asked what it was like to live in a foreign country. The thing that usually hits me about this question is that it didn't dawn on me until my early adulthood that I would (most likely) never live in a foreign country again. I remember a lot about living in Italy, but I really don't remember leaving it. I remember being dramatically sad about the boy I was leaving behind and the angst of moving again, but my mind holds no details for the last day I spent in Italy. It certainly didn't register that it would be the last time I'd ever live abroad.
There are lasts I struggle with. Lasts I wish I could see again, just to remember. Lasts that, if I'd had the super-power of knowing it was going to be a 'last', I would've burned it into my brain so I could remember it accurately. Lasts that I wish I would've known would be the last time.