Joey is a freelance writer and small business consultant. She lives North of Pittsburgh with her husband, daughter, and their two small dogs. When not attempting to dominate the world of social media, Joey enjoys reading, cooking, gardening, volunteering at church, and spending time with her little family. She posts recipes and life observations regularly on her blog, Big Teeth & Clouds.
“These are the best years of your life,” my dad said frequently. He had a whole speech about it. The first one happened when I was about sixteen.
“You’ve said that before, Dad,” I told him with an eye roll I’d perfected around that time.
It seemed like Dad was always repeating himself.
“This is my favorite meal,” he said during every dinner consumed between 1986 and 1992.
“Hoo Hah,” he’d cry randomly for years after watching Scent of a Woman.
So the “best years of your life” speech was taken with a large grain of salt as the rambling of an old man (he wasn’t that old at the time) who would probably always earnestly declare my life was at its peak.
I didn’t realize he’d stopped saying it until a recent spring afternoon. I found myself, age 33, with a nine-year-old girl clambering onto my lap. We were visiting my Mom and Dad on a Saturday afternoon, talking about something that wasn’t very memorable until…
“These are the best years of your life, Jo,” he said.
“I smiled. Yeah, this is pretty good,” I said and hugged my daughter.
“Not you,” he said as he patted my mother’s hand. “Us. These are the best years of our lives.”
“What? What about me?” I sputtered.
“I meant me and your mother. We’re retired. We’re in relatively good health. Our kids are grown and we worry about you, we do, but not like we did when you were our responsibility.”
“We could pick up and leave for a month,” my mom added. “We don’t want to, but we could.”
“You,” my dad continued, “you are like at the bottom right now. You have a long way to go.”
“These aren’t the best years of my life?” I asked.
“No. They’re not.”
We continued our banter for some time, Dad reassuring me that I have something to look forward to (if I make it) and me lamenting my status in the valley of the shadow of parenting. For a moment it seemed my prime had snuck up suddenly and just then was gone, never to be heard from again. It was a rather distressing moment.
But occasionally Dad is mistaken. It’s not so easy to think that he’s wrong. Not as easy as it was when I was sixteen anyway. And I can’t think of him as an old man lest I should wake up one morning and find myself an old woman. But these years are good for me, better than my teens for sure. I’m fulfilled and confident and loved. I have everything I’ve always wanted. Dad, thirty years ahead of me in life, feels the same.
So I look at that as a win. Perhaps with any luck I’ll have a whole bunch of best years. Best decades even. And when I get to those years my dad likes, I’ll make the best of them too.