I just ran out of salt. I can't remember when I last bought one of those round blue boxes of Morton Salt with the little girl holding an umbrella. I think the box I just emptied has moved with us at least four times.
"Do you think this will be our last box of salt?" I asked my husband. The good news is that I married a man who doesn't always follow me off the lost-in-my-thoughts cliff. Let's just say he takes what I say with a grain of salt -- sorry, I couldn't resist.
"Huh?" was his actual reply.
Because of health concerns and taste preferences, a box of salt lives a long life in our pantry. We don't use it much (although for those who care about my culinary acumen, I do cook with French sea salt and kosher salt more than I salt my prepared food). But I digress.
"Will this be our last box of salt?" I tried again. It's an aging question, a question of life's evolution and I know I'm not the only one who thinks like this. Those of us in the second half of our lives mark milestones differently. We see midlife for what it really is: a downsizing, not a buildup. It's nothing to get all morbid or depressed about; it is a realization and acceptance of the fact that the things you spent the first half of your life constructing and acquiring are about to get dismantled. And while the dismantling process has yet to kick into high gear in our household, I am acutely aware that it is around the corner and I can't resist peeking.
Which is why I have a bad case of the "lasts." I see a lot of things in terms of whether they are my last.
* When we built our current home 10 years ago, I wondered if it would be our last house -- certainly our last family house. I suspect it will be. I know we will downsize when our kids leave for college, maybe even sooner as we sort through our post-recession priorities and situate ourselves for retirement. Already I amuse myself with my iPad on sleepless nights hunting down new, smaller homes in places where the school system doesn't matter to me anymore. Let me just say, if you don't care about schools, the world is your oyster. Sometimes I also fool around on those RV-for-sale sites, catering to this lingering '60s thing I have where we wind up traveling North America in a big old RV plastered in place decals.
* When we got our shelter dog Harry last October, I wondered if he would be our last dog. He's three and my youngest kid will be off to college in seven years. I did the math. Will Harry be the end of the dog road for us? Will I be over my need to be needed and shun the responsibilities that come with pet ownership? Even before I had kids, I had dogs and I have always adjusted my life around their needs. When other singles were going out for drinks after work, I was rushing home to walk and feed the pooch. The first challenge of every vacation is arranging a dog sitter. I'm anticipating a time when all my plants will be artificial and I don't even need to water them.
* When we bought our SUV four years ago, I wondered if it would be our last soccer-mobile. That van has driven a million carpool miles and knows its own way to the In-N-Out drive-through; it has several pounds of french fries ground into the carpet to prove it. My husband and I were recently alone in it -- no kids, no kids' friends, no dogs -- and I was aware of just how quiet and big it felt. Already I am noticing when a little sedan saddles up next to my car on the freeway and winks at me, the way those cute little BMWs do. New Rule #1 will be: No food in the car.
* When we take a vacation, I wonder if I'm seeing these sights for the last time. When we boarded the plane home after visiting my daughter's orphanage in China last summer, I told her that I thought that this -- my third trip to China -- would be my last. It may not be, but traveling has gotten expensive and the grownup in me is more budget-minded these days. Truth is, there are still many places I want to see and there are indeed places I will not get to again. And for those places, we carry memories in our hearts and photos on our cell phones.
For the record, I don't think I'm morose or grim for seeing the sand run through my hour glass. I'm a healthy almost-63-year-old with a passion for living life fully. But intellectually I accept that no one lives forever or has a crystal ball telling them which will be their last day so that they are sure to spend it wisely. It's why I try to spend them all wisely. I have no doubt that we will survive saying goodbye to our big house or the soccer-mobile. They are the accoutrements of parenting young children, a life phase that I could not cherish more than I do.
Which gets me back to the salt. Or maybe it gets me back to my husband, who only pretends to just half-listen to me but is actually Thelma to my Louise when I head toward that aforementioned cliff.
"If it makes you feel better, we can pick up some little packets of salt at the In-N-Out," he offered. "That way, we won't waste money in case we die before we finish the salt."
That's it. I'm covering him with place decals.