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OPINION | GREG HARTON: Ready or not, the kids grow up and leave the nest

by Greg Harton | May 24, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

I love change. Change stinks.

That pretty much sums up my feelings about change. I'm of two mutually challenged minds on the topic.

Change is exhilarating and is responsible for most everything we have in our lives. Central heating and air conditioning, a freezer that doesn't require a block of ice and trips to see my parents in central Arkansas that don't require a multi-day mule ride through treacherous valleys and hills -- yeah, I can embrace change.

Other departures from what I've come to consider my norm are less comfortable. Last week, my boss here at the paper, Rusty Turner, permanently removed his green eyeshade (no, he didn't actually wear the headgear some editors wore in the early 20th century) and replaced it with a banana-print tropical shirt (which, on his final day of work, he actually did wear).

I wish him well in retirement. But I'm feeling a little like some of the people in the first of those once-popular "Left Behind" books. I've opened up the cockpit and all that's left is a banana shirt. Where'd my editor go?

We'll make due around here without Rusty but it will be an adjustment, for sure.

And speaking of change, just a few days earlier, my church formally split. That's a doozy, too. I'm a member at Central United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, but the entire United Methodist Church has been in upheaval for several years. I'm not getting into those issues today, but the reality is a significant portion of the congregation (including all four pastors) is forming a new church and a significant portion will remain at the church with the big white steeple on Dickson Street.

It's a massive change for people on both sides of the theological and denominational debate giving rise to considerable disruption within the United Methodist Church. Even as we share a desire to worship the same Messiah, we've now joined the long history of church congregations for which an issue or issues created rifts too difficult to be resolved.

And then there's a change that I've seen coming for nearly 18 years but it's still among the toughest to navigate emotionally. My youngest son, Jett, graduated from Fayetteville High School Thursday night in a commencement at Bud Walton Arena.

Last week was filled with events marking this change of seasons for him. First, a dinner by parents for Jett and his closest friends; a honors and scholarship celebration; then a banquet marking the end of his team's lacrosse season.

As with his brother, I will get to spend the summer with Jett at home before he heads to college. I'm thankful both of them will be at the University of Arkansas, not far away at all. But it nonetheless leaves me uneasy to give up the daily contact I've grown so accustomed to since 2002 and 2005. Their mother and I will have to be content with the momentary glimpses into what they're up to rather than the more intense daily involvement we've had all these years.

It's a rite of passage for them and for us parents. Sheryl and I, like all the other parents, have devoted ourselves to reaching this time when the children venture into adulthood, hopefully prepared with the examples we've set and guidance we've given. And we become the "empty nesters."

I'm proud of both my boys. I'm grateful for every moment shared. I look forward to many more in this new arrangement of our lives.

And we'll all get ready for more change ahead, because we can be assured it's going to come.

Print Headline: Ready or not, change still comes


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