My favorite coffee shop no longer exists. I was a regular visitor at lunch. I would order a large coffee and maybe something light to eat, sit at one of the many tables and write or read for 45 minutes before returning to the office. The coffee shop was my retreat from the problems and issues of my day; a place I could go to find a moment of quiet and rest.
It closed with no warning or advance notification. As I parked my car and walked to the door, I noticed a typed message taped to the window. "Thank you for the many years..." And that was it. I still drive by sometimes at lunch, hoping someone else has opened a coffee shop in that spot. But it has not yet happened.
It is funny, but I never thought of that coffee shop in terms of it being a temporary thing- there for a few years then gone. I just thought that it would always be there. I don't know why I thought of it that way. Certainly in my experience I know that nothing lasts forever. But I never imagined that one day I would walk up to its doors and they would be locked and it would be dark inside.
This is how it is with us and our lives and the lives of those around us. We know intellectually that no one stays young forever yet we refuse to consider life without them. When my youngest child left home for college, the first night he was gone the house seemed oddly quiet and empty. He normally went to bed later than my wife and I did, and I would lie in bed listening to him typing something to his late night friends or hear the TV show he was watching. Sometimes I would hear him laugh at something.
When those sounds were gone, I felt an emptiness inside I had never felt. For all those years that he was home, I had taken those sounds for granted. And now, sitting up in bed, propped against my pillow, I felt the heavy darkness surrounding me. I would have given anything to hear those sounds for just one more night. I had never considered life without the sound of children in the house. I woke my wife from her sleep to try to explain how I was feeling but I could not put it into words. I could only ask, "Is this how it is going to be now?"
The fact that something changes- and changes forever- changes you forever. And you are never the same. And life is different.
I am now sitting in a poor substitute coffee shop with tile floors, yearning for the old chairs, the wooden creaking floors, the smell of coffee filling every aspect of it. Maybe one day I will find something that will fill the void. But I doubt it.