Have you ever heard of anyone having a bad vacation in Hawaii? Last night my mom told me one of the worst vacation stories ever. A woman she had met went on a two week vacation there. A day into her family’s Hawaii vacay they received a phone call that her father-in-law had died. Then it rained. It rained every day. It rained so much that the only road to the airport was out of commission. Next, roaches. Their room was crawling with roaches. The second week of vacation, they received a phone call that her brother had a heart attack and passed away. Still raining. Still no way to the airport. Still roaches. Seriously, a vacation from hell!
Lately, I’ve felt like my Facebook feed has been scrolling with a never ending hell-like vacation. This summer alone, I’ve gone to two visitations for the parent of a friend. I’ve prayed for my aunt who is fighting cancer. I’ve shuttered at stories of disaster and violence. I’ve cried over pictures of kids in the hospital, families falling apart, friends moving away. Currently, I’m living in the house I grew up in. The house my mom and dad worked so hard for. The same house my dad won’t return to, yet every corner reminds me of him. More emptiness. More worry. More stress.
Growing up sucks!
My mom made scrapbooks of my brother and I and all our childhood adventures. Skinny legs, white hair, big framed glasses and braces, oversized sweatshirts and slouchy socks fill the pages of these books. “How embarrassing!” I think as I see a photo of me with tight-rolled leggings. Tight-rolled leggings, people! Also on these pages, are smiles. The carefree smiles of children. Of kids whose biggest worries were if their mom would let them go to McDonald’s for dinner.
Oh what I wouldn’t give to be carefree, worry-free, stress-free.
The pages of those scrapbooks, those pictures, they hold everything that was special and meaningful to me. They hold the promises of ease and perfection. A happy life is trapped in those pages. Everything outside those pages is suffocating.
One evening, my brother, my youngest son and I were eating dinner. My son is either hot or cold. Sometimes he will eat his food with such anger and disgust that no matter what you serve him he will throw it. No matter what you say to him he will merely grunt. Other times, he will eat pickles covered in ketchup and talk to you about his (imaginary) friend Annie and all their adventures. This night, he was the latter. I can’t recall the specifics, but my son must have been talking about all the things he could do when he becomes a big boy. You know, drive a car, stay up late, fight fires, climb really big trees. The sort of things every grown up does. In my son’s anxiousness to grow-up and become a tree climbing fire fighter, my brother said to him, “Don’t wish to grow up. Wish to grow old.”
I’m pretty sure my son scarfed down the rest of his dinner and scurried away from the table without a second thought to what his uncle had said. That tidbit of wisdom, however, sat with me and has stayed with me. Today, as I sit here reflecting on all the hellish situations that surround me and those I know, my brother’s words stir in me;
“Don’t wish to grow up. Wish to grow old.”
I know my mom and all my former English teachers out there would encourage me to use another descriptive word, but I can’t. Growing up sucks. Growing up means loss along the way- childhood, dreams, friends, loved ones. Growing up means jobs and WORK. It means worry, stress, and failure. There is a reason kids don’t like grown-ups. There is no time for FUN.
This weekend, my best friend’s little sister got married. I’ve known her long enough, that it was as if my little sister got married. I had a front row seat as I watched Lauren and Ryan vow to love each other through plenty and want, through sickness and health, through good times and bad as long as they both shall live. As long as they both shall live. I picture them, old and gray, visiting the courtyard where they got married and smiling at the adventure life gave them. I picture them GROWING OLD together.
Remember the Disney movie, “UP“? The little old man Carl had turned into ‘Grumpy Gus’ after his wife died. He not only lost his best friend, but he had lost dreams. Thanks to a little boy Russell, Carl learned that life, while able, is still worth the adventure.
I think my brother’s message fits the theme of “UP“. What my brother really meant was that growing up means giving up. Giving up on dreams. Giving up on hope. Giving up on happiness and fun.
Growing old, rather doesn’t guarantee you to be withered and gray. Growing old doesn’t mean loss, worry or stress will be absent in your life. Growing old means you continue to grow. You hold onto the dreams, the memories, the hopes you had as a child. Growing old means keeping the good and learning from bad. Growing old is an adventure, not an age.
I take my eyes off myself and I see three little children. Children of my very own. They smile. They laugh. They sing and skip just because. I am blessed they are who they are. I am blessed they are mine. I want to trap them in pages of scrapbooks. I want to freeze time and always feel their hugs and kisses, and yes even their snotty nose wipes on my pant leg. I fear them growing up.
Like Carl, I can’t control time. Come hell or high water, or roaches, I have to let my kids grow and explore. I too, have to keep my eyes up, even through the growing pains. As newlyweds do, I have to hold onto the hope there is in life. The hope there is in growing old.
“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
If you are in a season of struggle, where all the grown-up stresses have overcome your life, I pray for you. Hold on and keep your eyes up.
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