Eras & Their Ends

Lately, my family has experienced more than just one era coming to a close. Allow me to explain why you might catch me with a teary eye.

Eras & Their Ends
Photo by Element5 Digital / Unsplash

Most people might be thinking of Taylor Swift when the word "era" is uttered these days, but lately I keep thinking about all the recent things in my life, and my family's life, that could be termed the end of an era. And to say those situations are bittersweet is a vast understatement. If you're going through something similar, this one's for you.

The End of Elementary School

Tomorrow, my firstborn, my Izzy Bear—who is now 5'8"— is graduating from elementary school. Not only does it make me tear up thinking about what a blur elementary school has been; this graduation makes the fact that her high school graduation is just six years away way too real.

The end of the show "Never Have I Ever" has also had me crying over graduations. I can't imagine when my girls go to college. We better start building an ark for that.

Tomorrow is Izzy's advancement ceremony, and she tells me her class is singing Bruno Mars' "Count On Me." OMG, anyone who knows us well, knows that the "Doo-Wops & Hooligans" album is very special to us. It instantly takes me back to 2010 when she was a baby.

Bruno Mars was in Izzy's vocabulary at a very early age. And she rocked that concert tee we bought for her for years before Gwen inherited it. I'd say it was worth the concert venue prices x 100.

I am going to have to take my mind to someplace not-at-all nostalgic when they burst into song tomorrow morning, or I will be weeping. And there's a slideshow. I'm done for, for sure.

Saying Goodbye to Coach

Another end of an era: Last weekend, Izzy's house soccer career ended. She's doing travel soccer next year, along with some others from her longstanding team, but it was the last time the whole team would be together on the pitch. It was also the last game of being coached by her fantastic coach of six years, and 12 seasons, Coach Nick.

It has been such a joy to watch Izzy and her soccer buddies grow together as a team. They got so close, and the past few years, they have really been kicking tail. The team wouldn't have stuck together without their excellent coaches, though.

Coach Nick has been there from the very beginning and always knew how to talk to Izzy when she was doubting herself. He helped her see her strengths and pulled out her awesome sense of humor in times of frustration. I think Nick helped grow her confidence more than he'll ever realize. It's not just the cost of travel soccer that is bringing out the waterworks in our house!

Friends Moving Away

A few weeks ago, dear neighbor friends of ours moved out of our neighborhood. These are friends who we have known since we first moved in, friends who have become family, who have been there with unfailing support at our very best and absolute worst of times. They're friends who were always able to rally the whole street to party! And who sat on the HOA Board and made way more positive changes to our hood than we can count.

Our street will never be the same. Fortunately, these friends moved just a little over a mile away, but not having them a short walk up the hill is a bummer. Yet another end of an era.

Health Struggles & Loss of Abilities

Of course, lots of things will never be the same as they were before the pandemic, and there are so many families who lost loved ones over the past few years or are otherwise struggling. We've all been through a lot.

My family is no exception. The absolute hardest pill to swallow has been my dad, my biggest hero, getting diagnosed with ALS. He is just about the greatest guy you'll ever meet. Seriously, my dad sets the bar. I know life can be unfair, but I don't know how he got dealt these cards. I know lots of families can't quite understand such things.

I also know we can all learn from my dad. No matter what has been thrown my dad's way, he has handled it with nothing but courage, strength and faith. He has many reasons to complain, but you won't hear him do so.

One thing he shared with me during another health struggle was, "We're all stronger than we realize." And I've clung to those words so many times. That's the thing about my daddy. He can always make you feel better. Always. With his wise words, his warm smile and his comforting voice.

And my mom, oh, my mom, has been absolutely incredible, tirelessly advocating for my dad when all the oodles of tests didn't add up exactly. If you need someone in your corner, you can't ask for anyone better than my mom, my best friend.

Traditions Put on Pause

This year we won't be making our beloved annual trip down to Myrtle Beach with my side of the family, the same trip we've made to the Grand Strand since I was five years old, minus one year when Matt and I as new lovebirds went to the Caribbean instead. As our family grew, we kept staying at different places up and down the beach. Wherever we stayed, we had a blast! Our whole family has always considered that family beach trip the best week of the year.

On about Wednesday of our beach vacay, every year, I would start to get sad about Saturday coming too fast. That's how wonderful those weeks were.  I have almost 40 years of the best, best memories that I will have FOREVER. And my girls have a treasure trove of them as well. I am immensely grateful for that.

These memories may bring me tears sometimes, because I'm a crier, but on balance, they have brought tons more smiles. They are in my lifetime highlight reel and will be there forever. And no matter what challenges come our way, we will continue to make magical memories together. That, I promise.

I also promise:

I will continue praying for better treatments and eventually a cure for ALS, and support research on it as much as possible.

I will keep praying that we all will get to take that beach trip together again.

I will never give up on miracles.

I will never stop being amazed by the vast advances in science.

I will always be particularly grateful for the advances in heart health and cancer treatment over the past decade.

I will find joy in joyful things and always be on the lookout for the bright side.

I will work on spending more time in the present.

I will look for ways I can make a difference.

And I will continually aim to be more like my amazing parents as well as emulate good friends, teachers and coaches that bring out the best in others.

Natalie Kaar