On Tuesday night, my wife and I celebrated her birthday by visiting our old college campus, where we met. We took in a Bogart film at the campus theater where we had gone on our first official date and had a few drinks after at the laid back basement bar we used to patronize located in the same building (best campus building ever).
The amazing thing about being back amongst the student population of a school we had both left over a decade ago was that so much of it looked the same. Sure, there have been renovations. For instance, the undergraduate dorm where we met, a blocky concrete structure, has been leveled and in its place erected a sprawling monstrosity of steel and glass that appears to rise from the depths of its underground parking garage like Cthulhu to devour all the would be graduate business students unfortunate enough to venture near it. There were also these new illuminated bulletin boards that eerily resemble Imperial Probe Droids scattered about the quad.
But for all the changes, so very many things looked exactly the same. The greystone buildings stood proud and imposing as they did when I walked into one of them for my first college class (then hurriedly walked out of when the professor entered and began speaking Spanish, rechecked my schedule and walked into the right one for my Math Theory class). The cafes and book stores we frequented were still around. Even the students themselves looked and dressed almost exactly the way our classmates had so long ago.
Being in that atmosphere caused us to miss it. The carefree days of alternating intellectualism and debauchery seemed so far gone and we longed for the time when our minds were being challenged and when the world would not end if we decided to skip our day's responsibilities to stay in bed. While at the basement bar we even called one of our college friends and told him we were there, remembering nights in that same place in his company. We laughed together a few minutes then hung up so he could get back to his family of six (not including dogs).
Eventually, it was time to head home and while there was some melancholy over the fact that college life was no longer ours, it seemed fitting to celebrate my wife's birthday that night by visiting a place that had had so much to do with shaping our lives yet from which we had moved forward. We had not necessarily wanted to move forward, but we had to because that is just the way life goes.
The following day was my wife's actual birthday. But Wednesday held a different celebration. My youngest son was to participate in his First Reconciliation (aka Confession for you old school Catholics out there). That evening, we went to the church, sat with him, prayed and sent him off to confess his sins to God. My wife and I were both thankful the parents did not have to participate, not because we feared confessing our own sins but because with so many more people and, more importantly, so many more sins per each of them, the ceremony would have taken forever.
After my son had done his deed and asked for forgiveness, we went home and enjoyed some pizza with family. We sang Happy Birthday to my wife and congratulated my youngest son on his accomplishment. He seemed proud.
The events of those two days caused me to think. So often, we get caught up in how the world is moving forward in spite of us. Life makes us change in ways we saw coming and in ways we never could have predicted. We sometimes look back on what has passed with longing and regret.
But the journey looked different to me Wednesday. We celebrated another year of my wife's life and we celebrated my son's confession. What we celebrated was moving forward. Another year of wisdom and making a positive impact on the lives of others has been completed for my beautiful wife. An important milestone in the journey to manhood had transpired for my handsome son. These were events over which to rejoice.
And they were events whose relation to one another I may never have appreciated had they not fallen on the same day.
To be sure, my wife and I have done a lot of growing up together. Both of us have had to ask for forgiveness, both from God and one another. Thankfully, it has always been granted (at least up to this point). But so often I associate growing older and wiser with the granting of forgiveness to others. You live, you learn, you let things become water under the bridge. How big of you.
Yesterday it became clear that a much bigger part of getting older lies in asking for forgiveness. It is hard to admit you have done wrong and even harder to ask the very person you have wronged to forgive you. But in doing so, you make an important choice. In doing so, you choose to leave your mistakes behind. Not forget them, mind you, but you decide not to let them control you or loom over your life any longer. They are a burden that you take from yourself and set down. Leaving your sins in the past is like growing up gracefully, leaving your experiences in the past where they belong. Dwelling on past sins is not much different from dwelling on past glory. Neither matters much for what is to come nor does dwelling on them change that life will continue to move forward.
Life makes us change in ways we saw coming and in ways we never could have predicted. Yesterday, I witnessed two of the people I love most accept and embrace life's changes with grace and class. I am proud of them both and I cannot wait to see what else happens as their lives move forward, hand in hand with mine.