Lasting Lasts


I probably spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about lasts. I divide them into two basic categories: those I know are lasts as they occur, and those I discover as such at some later date. The above photo is of what I’m certain will be the last ripe berry my raspberry bushes will produce this year. To get full value from the last berry, I made a pie.

It's possible my “first last” of recognition occurred when my grandmother died. I was in the 7th grade, and she was the first person I was close to that I ever lost. As expected, it was painful and confusing. I naturally spent some time remembering the last time I saw her, as well as the last thing she said to me.

As a school teacher, I probably overemphasized “last days” of the school years. I remember wanting to impart some final words of wisdom to my students, before dismissing them from my classroom for the last time. This is similar to when I dropped my own kids off for their first year of college.

I think my fascination with “lasts” began to take root when I became a father. I was fully aware of the last autumns that each of my kids would spend at home. I remember the first time my first born met my grandfather. It was also the last time. I remember the last time she used a pacifier as she collected them all and put them into the garbage. I don’t remember the last time I sang her to sleep, or pushed her on the swing; on second thought, I think I remember the last time on the swing.

I remember the last time my son trick-or-treated on his birthday, which he shares with Halloween. I remember his last baseball game. I don’t remember the last time he followed me with his Little Tikes toy mower as I cut the grass in our yard. Nor do I remember the last time he put my towel, shaver and deodorant out for me before I showered in the morning.

I guess, if pressed, I’d have to say I prefer to not know when a last is a last. I don’t let go well. It's much easier for me to purchase than it is to sell, to receive than to give, and I prefer “hellos” to “goodbyes.”

My parents are aging. Their memories are failing and bodies breaking down. I consider “lasts” each time I leave them. I choose my words and actions carefully and I gaze at them a little more intensely, as I close the door behind me, hoping it’s not for the last time.