Missing Pieces

Sometimes life can change on a dime…other times it is a long build up to a quiet but significant transition. Nearly 22 years ago my wife and I planned our wedding for just over a year before it actually happened. We have had two children that we used about nine months each to prepare for. I have spent much time in school completing my education and my wife is now on the verge of completing hers. My daughter is now on her own path…and learning, and my son just received his acceptance to his dream school – he will be heading up to Michigan Tech this fall, the end goal of our past 20 years as a nuclear family leading to an empty nest…

Oh…and lest I forget…I just received an invitation to join AARP…the real icing in the cake! I just cannot contain my excitement at the prospect of joining the Senior class! I really shouldn’t be surprised…I have been routinely asked for several years if I “wanted the senior discount” by store clerks who judge age by the color of your hair and the distance it is from your eyebrows. It is a battle I lost long ago…I should just give in and take the 10% discount wherever I can get it…

All of these have been slow changes that we prepared for, but when the actual moment of change arrives it is as if we had no idea it was coming. The vows are spoken, the babies cry their first (of many) screams, graduation happens, the AARP letter lands in your mailbox, and it is then you realize you were completely unprepared for what lies ahead. The emptiness; the longing for what was; the what next questions – the missing pieces. No matter how much we think we are prepared for change, there are always missing pieces…things we did not plan for or think about. This is the place where you realize how much you needed that set of extra hands around the house or in the workshop. When you notice what once were chores you paid an allowance for are now your jobs to add to the list. This is how you come to understand that the degrees framed and hanging on your wall will not really get you the job you intended, and you wonder if they were really worth it. This is the place you realize the comb-over just will not work if there isn’t enough hair there, (for those of you wondering…no, Rogaine does not work…). These are the missing pieces and some of us never find them.

When I was a kid, we had in our kitchen a drawer full of random stuff. Odds and ends, things that were not used very often or half used but might be needed again someday. We called it our “junk drawer”. If someone was looking for something we would always tell them to check in the junk drawer and very often the needed thing would be found there. I have a similar box in my garage for odd screws, nails, fasteners of all kinds. I’ll often sift through it when I need a certain size or type of screw or nail and I will usually find it in there somewhere. I’m sure we all have these kinds of treasure troves of useful items that we keep for that time when we just might need that missing piece.

There is that place where we know we will find what we need because we think we remember putting it there in case we might need it someday. I remember it is on that page I tore the corner off of while flipping through to my favorite verse. That line I highlighted once when I felt this way before. You know, where you drew an arrow down to the bottom of the page where you wrote exactly what the pastor said about that phrase that changed the way you look at life. That dog-eared, worn-out, taped up, multi-colored highlighted, red-lettered edition, book that is never far from your side. You may have 20 different versions, but there is that one that you have tattered and torn throughout the years and you still turn to because you know the answer you seek is in there somewhere – you’ve read it through and through and it shows. It is your personal book of missing pieces. Seek and you will find the answer to everything…

…and no…the answer is not 42…!

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