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Life with Liz: The last time

The last week or two, I’ve noticed something about memories that people are sharing on social media. Most of them are accompanied by a sentiment along the lines of “That was the last time I (fill in the blank). If I had known that was the last time I’d be doing (fill in the blank) for a year, I would have enjoyed it more.”

For me, the last time we ate out at a restaurant came after a “last” junior high county band concert I’d be attending for a while, since it was A’s eighth-grade year. I documented both events with pictures, A’s concert for the obvious reasons, and our venture at the restaurant because we were trying a new place that I’d heard a lot of good things about, and also because it was the first time I sampled Yuengling’s Hershey’s Porter.

The restaurant lived up to the hype. I had captured G’s sauce-covered face as he dug into their famous wings. The beer, although good, wasn’t quite as good as some of the imported stuff that the Wonderful Husband had brought home when he was going through his “dark beer” phase. At any rate, it was a lovely afternoon, both spent with A and his friends in band and their families at the concert, and then together as a family trying a new restaurant adventure. As “last things” go, I think we did it right.

In the next week, I will see pictures of some of the last swim meets I coached at, and the kids swam in. I won’t see many pictures that I posted, usually because I was too busy coaching, but my friends will tag me in theirs, and my village always made sure to take extra pictures of my kids. I can finally answer the question of what I would do with all the hours I spent in the pool. Sadly, it’s not read more books, or finish more house projects, or even find other hobbies. Mostly, I just miss being in the pool. I’ve spent way too much time following other Instagram accounts around the world where people are still engaged in competitive swimming, or following virtual USA swimming meets. If I had known that March 12 was the last time I would leave practice for a year? I would definitely have breathed in a little more chlorination, and maybe not rushed out of there quite so fast.

I can’t find enough gratitude in the world for the coaches and advisers who found ways to make seasons happen and shows go on. Even though it’s different, I no longer take anything for granted. I now treat every game, every practice as if it could be the last. For a while, at least. There is always the chance that someone will test positive and we will be in quarantine again, or worse, sick.

Then, of course, there are the lasts that were really, truly lasts. I know too many people who have lost those near and dear to them, whether it was to COVID-19, or something unrelated. Thanks to social distancing requirements, too many of us have had to have that last conversation over the phone or a video call. How many times in the last few months have you found yourself saying, “I can’t believe that was the last time I saw so and so?”

In a few weeks, I’m going to start seeing a lot of “the first time” memories. The first time I tried to work from home with three kids, a puppy, and the WH also trying to do their thing in the same space. The first time I wore a mask out in public. The first time I tried online grocery shopping. The first holiday in quarantine. The first time I realized that two weeks wasn’t going to be enough to flatten the curve. Hopefully, it will also be the last time some of things happened, like solitary birthday celebrations, but if we do have to do them again, at least we know what to expect. Or, should I say what not to expect?

We really have been given an opportunity to examine what it is like to live life as if every day were the last. And we’ve been given plenty of time to think about how we might have spent those last few weeks of “normal” differently. I’ve heard many people say, “I’m never going to take (fill in the blank) for granted again. For example, I’m never going to take working from home, alone, in peace, and being able to concentrate solely on one task at a time for granted again. I’m never going to take being able to ask another parent to carpool for granted again. I’m never going to take having thousands of adventures and trying new things and having plenty of column material for granted again. My list goes on and on.

Not only were we given the opportunity to appreciate all the “last things,” but we were also given plenty of time to think about them. I had a rare opportunity to have a discussion with a fellow parent the other week, and she expressed concerns that maybe some youth sports organizations will not be able to come back, or at least not in the form that we are used to them.

I tried to be optimistic. I’ve been looking at the last year as a time for all my little swim team members to forget all their bad habits. I’ve been hoping that they’ll come back to the pool as both blank slates, and as kids who are highly motivated to get back to doing an activity that they love. This could be one of the best and most unique coaching opportunities I’ve ever had.

I’m trying to continue that optimism in the rest of my life, as well. As I am reminded of these “lasts,” I’m also asking myself if that really was the last time I did something, how upset am I? If I don’t actually miss it, if I am in fact relieved that that was the last whatever that I had to do, I’m going to try harder to leave those things in the past. It isn’t a foolproof plan, obviously, I can’t leave all the distasteful tasks in the past, but I’m going to start by asking myself, “if I knew the world as I knew it was going to end in two weeks, would I still be spending this time doing this?” and see what happens.

Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.