Sunday, April 13, 2008

Back in Town

My family and I were out of town this weekend.

One of the church elders at the old congregation Tonya and I attended--the congregation where Tonya spent most of her growing-up years--had passed away, and today was the memorial service. The man who was being remembered had been heavily involved in the day-to-day management of the church, both in a managerial sense (he was the finance go-to guy) and in a relational and spiritual sense (he was always interested in how you were doing and in whether there's anything I can do to help). He was good friends with Tonya's family and was father to some of Tonya's childhood friends. So we went back to the Bay Area this weekend for the memorial service.

I didn't have a chance to go to the memorial, since such events tend not to be kid-friendly, and I was on kid duty. (Even sitting through a Sunday-morning worship service wrestling match with the Happy Boy can be exhausting. I may be stronger than him, but that fourteen-month-old has got a lot more stamina. By the end of the service, I'm beat and he's more than ready to run loose and play hard. I can't imagine trying to sit through a two- to three-hour memorial while trying to keep him contained...) But I did get to go to church in the morning, and see a lot of people I hadn't seen in a long time.


One of the consequences of growing up an Air Force brat is that you never actually get to see anyone change. That is, you only live in an area for four years tops--and usually less. Most of the adults you know are in their late twenties, thirties, and forties, and they don't change much from the time you show up for a new assignment until when you leave for the next one. And for that matter, even the kids you know don't change all that much. For one thing, even if you live in the area four years, that doesn't mean you get to know everyone else for four years, since they're in the Air Force as well, and they're likely to move before your four years are up. Often you only get to know others for two years at a time, and then they (or you) are gone. Even for rapidly-growing kids, they don't change all that much in two years.

Prior to adulthood, this was the way things went in my life. I never lived in any one place more than four years (and didn't actually break that record until this last fall). But upon reaching adulthood I started to hang around the church where I met Tonya more and more. So even though I've moved around since then, I've started keeping in touch with more people, long enough to see more than just little snippets of their life-story arcs. I'm now starting to see elementary school kids, who've turned into adults, started having kids, and started careers in accounting(!) and law(!). I'm now starting to see people who were young adults, who've moved to full maturity and have shouldered full responsibility for the enterprises they're engaged in. I've now seen scrawny little girls, who've grown up to be gorgeous, buxom young ladies, and scratched my head and wondered, when did this happen? And, I've seen formerly strong, vital men and women go into decline, become weak and frail, and then pass on.

And all of this is new to me. I'm in my late thirties, and it's only been hitting me recently how this is all happening.

I got to see a lot of that in church this morning. I got to see one family, and--oh look, they have another kid! When did that happen? And then I got to see another couple, and--oh are you two still dating? Boy, she's pretty--and her hair is about a foot longer than I remember. And that little kid I used to know? He's now a fullback....

I'm not sure I can describe what this experience is like to someone who hasn't grown up as a military brat. The response of a normal person to all of the above is most likely, "Yeah? So what else is new...." Or rather, my wife informs me that their response tends to be a much milder version of the above, along the lines of "Wow, time goes fast." I suppose for the Air Force brat, the discovery is that "Wow, time happens."

Anyway, it was good to see all those faces again. Even if some of them were a bit chubbier or wrinklier than I remember them. :-)

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