August 17, 2018

…so there I was, making the familiar late-night drive to the Phoenix airport via the airport shuttle, upon which I would enter Terminal 3 and walk the same route past the JetBlue counter and up the escalators to the security checkpoint, then down the ramp to the Mexican restaurant for a glass or two of Pinot Grigio and an order of hot wings served by the same bartenders who have been there for as long as I can remember. We’re not on a first name basis – although we certainly could be, given all the visits I’ve made over the years back home to Massachusetts – at least 4 times a year, sometimes more.

The driver and I are exchanging small talk, primarily about all the changes going on and their rapidity, so much so it almost makes one’s head spin. The driver tells me the late-night work has slowed to a crawl – so much so that he could envision the late-night shuttle service stopping altogether in the next year or two.

I know what he’s talking about: there was a time when any time I’d be picked up at my house for an airport trip you’d see the van if not completely full, then certainly occupied from prior stops, or, we’d then wander around the East Valley for a stop or two to pick up other passengers before heading straight to the airport. The last several times, if it hasn’t been just me, it’s been only another passenger traveling with me.

“Our former passengers are all using Lyft or Uber to take them.”, explains the driver, smooth jazz playing softly in the background over the A/C. “It’s no more expensive, and they don’t have to share a ride with strangers or take anymore time than they absolutely have to. It’s not good for me personally, but there’s nothing good or bad about it, it’s just the way it is.”

Upon my arrival at the airport, Terminal 3 is a mish-mash of construction and unfamiliar routes taken folks all over the place to avoid it. I’m sure it’s going to be beautiful when it is all completed next year, but as I find out after exchanging pleasantries with the bartender and having my double Pinot placed in front of me without me having to ask, this is probably the last time I’ll be eating here. I ask about the construction and what they’re going to do once the work hits this particular area of the terminal. “They’re closing us up, probably in the next six weeks”, she says. “We’re all going to be reassigned to other new places they’re building as we speak. Me? I’m hoping to get into the San Tan Brewery that’s s’posed to open before he holidays.”

“No more Mexican joint?”, I ask. “No more hot wings? No more forty steps to Gate 26 with the men’s room on left for a quick whiz before having to board?”

She nods. “They’re going to be moving the gates and this area of the terminal will go bye-bye.”

I sit there quietly contemplating things. Everything seems to be drifting away from me, like a castle in the sand against an onrushing tide of events that you can’t stop. I’m heading back to Massachusetts to help my dad move out of the familiar two-bedroom apartment he and my mom had shared for a dozen-plus years before she passed away more than two years ago. Dad doesn’t need all the space anymore, and we’ve found him some wonderful new digs in a senior living place the next town over. I’m also going to help him turn in his car; he doesn’t really like driving anymore, and with the shuttle service at the senior living place he isn’t going to need one anymore. It’s win-win for everyone, and he’ll thrive in the social environment he’ll be in. No more isolation, no more us worrying about whether he’s doing OK.

At least for now.

As I think about it, I realize this is probably the last time I’ll be going back to Massachusetts for any kind of extended stay. My parents had the extra bedroom which made it a cheap trip; now with dad having a studio apartment I’m going to have to find my own place to stay, and pay for it. The senior living place has a guesthouse for $50 a night which is nice, and there’s a Best Western down the street that’s more expensive, which is nice also, but neither arrangement lends itself for more than, say, long weekend visits.

Everything is changing. Even the Goodboys Invitational weekend this past July was the second year in a row where it rally didn’t have the same feel it used to have. With all the issues with he hotel and stuff, it really wasn’t a whole lot of fun. We’re all getting older and more set in our ways, and after 28 years you wonder how much longer it’s all worth doing.

I miss the way things used to be: the full shuttles with folks excitedly talking about their upcoming trips. The wine and the wings at the Mexican joint as I looked forward to seeing my mom and dad, knowing how happy Mom would be to see me as I walked into their happy and familiar apartment, it looking the same as it did the last time I visited. Everything seemed so alive, so happy, so routine, so worry-free. I know I never took it for granted – I would tell myself constantly that things some day would change and be sure to embrace the joy and familiarity of it, but you still knew in the back of your mind it all had to end eventually, didn’t it? But that would be living fatalistically and cynically, and that’s no way to go through life.

But here it is: August 2016, and I’m going to help my dad with his move to a new phase of his life. And with it, we’ll be cutting away pieces of the past, never to be experienced again. Pieces of long-held happy and familiar memories given away or tossed into the dumpster. And I’ll be helping him do it.

Nothing lasts forever. All things must pass. And as it does, it hits you like a hammer that the things that are passing away aren’t just happening to other people – shuttle drivers, strangers in the van, bartenders at an airport Mexican joint, they’re happening to you as well, and there will come a point when those changes come closer to you than you’re comfortable with. And I’m not sure just how capable I am at dealing with that kind of realization.

Things are moving way too quickly for this old Great White Shank. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

Just ride the waves while you still have the ability to try and enjoy the ride. Because before you know it, that ride will end as well.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 05:21 | Comments (0)
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