I got a call from my brother Spenser the other day. He’s two years younger than me and we spent most of our childhood hating one another (though we did manage to find common ground in throwing rocks at passing cars and sabotaging our father). Once I left for college he and I didn’t talk much until he joined the Navy. After his initial training in South Carolina he was briefly stationed up in Ballston Spa (he’s in the nuclear program) which is only about forty minutes north of where I live, and for the first time in years we saw one another pretty regularly. I’d like to think I atoned for being a huge douche to him as a kid during the few months we were both New Yorkers.
Anyway, he’s stationed in Seattle now and spent the past few weeks involved in training runs to and from San Diego so the call from him was unexpected but very welcomed. I filled him in on what’s been going on with me since we last spoke and we chatted about marriage, houses, and being “grown up.”
The house is another piece of the adult puzzle where it feels like I’ve reached “the end.” Earlier pieces included graduating college and getting married. I don’t mean “the end” in a bad way; it’s just those milestones in life you hit at times (I’ve reached the end of my formal education. I’ve reached the end (hopefully) of dating).
Every other place I’ve called home since I left for college has been temporary - dorms, apartments, couches in basements - and it hit me hard when I saw the mortgage paperwork and the year it will be paid off: 2044. 2044...I’ll be fifty-seven years old. On my way out to my car this morning I contemplated the grass and thought, “I’ll be mowing this every summer for the next thirty years.” And as if on cue a kid on a bike rode by and he called me “mister,” and for the first time in my life I couldn’t argue against that. After all I was standing in my driveway next to my car in front of my house dressed in my work clothes with a ring on my finger. My wife, my house, my job - these are all things I wanted and worked toward and I regret none of them. I still have a lot I want to accomplish, but I also need to stop selling myself short by thinking of myself as one of those just-out-of-college twenty-somethings you read about, because I’m not anymore. I've moved past that. It’s like graduating high school: you’re excited for the next step but you’re still left with the very definite feeling that a chapter of your life is coming to an end. I am a “mister” now.
“When did this happen?” I asked Spenser. “When did we stop being kids?”
“Speak for yourself.”
We both had a laugh at that but had admitted he’s in the beginning stages of what I’m feeling. The Navy has thrown his personal life into a jumble but he’s not unaware of what other people his age are doing.
“People I went to high school with,” he said, “They’re getting married and buying houses and having kids...and I’m like, ‘What? You can’t do that. You’re too young and stupid.’ Like, I know they’re at that point where they start to do those things but at the same time I keep thinking...weren’t we just in high school?”
“Yeah,” I said, “it feels like it was just last week that I was in college. And I’ve already been married almost two years, but I still have those days where I wake up and I think ‘Jesus, I’m a grown-up. I have a wife and a house. When the fuck did that happen?’”
“It’s not that bad,” Spenser said. “Not that I’d know or anything. But really, you’re still in your twenties, you can still eat ice cream whenever you want, and you can stay up as late as you want. The only thing that’s different is that you don’t have to date girls anymore, which is good because you kind of sucked at that.”
“I guess that’s true. Hey, I gotta go get dinner started, but it was nice to hear from you. Next time you get a chance to call please do.”
“I will. Talk to you later.”
“Hey, Spenser...don’t get old.”
“Same to you.”