I don’t know about you, but after 22 years together, my wife and I have noticed that for us, the month of August is either amazing or down right awful. I don’t think there has been even one of the 22 that has been just so-so ordinary…not one. We were married on August 10, 1996 and that first August was a very good one. I left pastoring and we left the traditional church in one August that was very difficult. The surgery to remove my lung happened in an August and the recovery lasted well into October…that August was very long! We moved away from our home in Upper Michigan to live with the trolls under the bridge in August of 2008 and that was hard. My mom died of Alzheimer’s in August of 2016 and we spent our 20 year anniversary at her funeral – that was a particularly awful August. There have been 17 other Augusts in our lives together to varying degrees of amazing and troublesome and this one is proving to be no different.
As if the world just wanted to start this August off with a little jab to let me know what time of the year it was, someone asked me a question yesterday that is still eating at my craw. My wife and I had to go to the car dealer to have some repairs done on our cars and since we were going to be a waiting for a couple of hours, we decided to walk the lot and do a little dreaming. I’m planning on getting a truck in the spring so we were opening doors and kicking tires and all the while having some deeper conversations about where we were at and where we…and our kids…were going. Nothing really heavy but important conversations that sometimes happen while you are doing something that is not quite so important. While we were sitting in one of the new trucks, a salesman came over and struck up a conversation – he was wanting to make a sale but not terribly pushy and nice enough but obviously new to sales. Since we had some time I thought I’d let him practice his new job skills knowing full well there was no deal to be made today. We talked some numbers about where we needed to be at and what specifically we were looking for and he went off to get an appraisal on our truck in the shop and “crunch some numbers” as they say. We waked around a bit more and sat in a few and then went back to the dealer lounge to wait. When he came back he began explaining the details of this new truck he had on the lot and how awesome it was, trying to sell me before he got to the payment numbers. I knew full well what he was doing so I just played along as this fresh-faced car salesman made his pitch. In the end we were about six grand away from making a horrible deal. I kindly said that it wasn’t going to happen, we were not in a have-to situation and had time to wait. He thought for a moment, searching for a way to make the numbers work, and then asked the question that won’t let me go:
“Where did you retire from…?”
My wife gasped audibly. I shook my head in disbelief and chuckled while my blood pressure began to rise. Now, to be fair, I am nearly bald and what hair I have is gray and I have a goatee which is also mostly gray so I am obviously not a young man. I’ve had people asking me for years if I want the “senior discount”, but at 50 years old I am far from retirement and I don’t feel a day over 49! He blinked and smiled a sheepish grin as if he had just stepped in some doo and had no way to clean it up. He had been trying to find some incentives that some corporations offer and had made some assumptions about my wife and I based on our appearance. Thankfully, the service rep came over just at the right time with the keys for our cars in the shop so we all shook hands kindly and we picked up our cars and headed out for the rest of our day. I think he probably went back to his desk and buried his head in his hands and won’t likely make that mistake again.
By the end of this month we will officially be empty-nesters and I am feeling old. Our daughter has been out of the house for about 2 years now and our son will be off to college in 3 short weeks. We find ourselves somewhere between wanting them to stay yet knowing they need to learn to fly on their own – a constant angst – I want to hold you forever but it’s time to move on. Please don’t change…I like where we’re at and who we’ve become. I don’t want to be an aging steward whose purpose is no longer relevant. We’ve been working toward this transition for nearly a year since he made the decision about where he wanted to go to school…about 8 hours away from home to Michigan Tech. As the month pushes on, I could not be more proud since I graduated from Tech as well and the Houghton/Hancock area of Upper Michigan is home for us. He will be in familiar territory with other family and friends close by. He has a world in front of him and it is his to explore and I want him to run to it with everything he has…but it is away from us – this is not an easy pill to swallow.
This is going to be a particularly bitter-sweet August.