The consistency of time

For about the past seven or eight years, the notice came via
email: my alma mater was looking for people under the age of 40 who were worthy
of commendation.

The first three years, Athenae ponied up my name and I
happily wrote my letters, gathered my materials and sent them off, forgetting
of course that I went to a place that always put style above substance and
perception above reality.

Each year, I got the auto-penned letter from the head of the
committee, telling me I was really, really, REALLY close. Each year, I believed
it.

In about year four, I asked A to stop nominating me. It was
really a waste of her time and merely added a few thousand keystrokes to her
budding carpal tunnel syndrome.

That year, two other people apparently nominated me. And
someone else did as well the year after that.

I wrote. I hoped.

I lost. I drank.

I said, “Ah fuck it…”

Last year, A ponied up again. I wasn’t about to let them get
the better of me, so I sent in my materials along with a biting criticism of
how this was all wasted time. Best I could hope for, I noted, was to become
known as the Susan Lucci of this award and get an autopenned letter again.

I was wrong.

I got rejected again, but this time, someone actually signed
the damned letter by hand.

This was the last year for me for the award and I let it
just drift away. All it did was remind me I was getting older.

Rest assured, this isn’t a self-pity post. It isn’t so much
about loss, either. It’s about time and what it does to us while we’re trying
to do something with it.

Around this time each year, the folks and I hold a rummage
sale. Two years ago, I asked The Missus if it was finally time to sell The
Midget’s old clothing and toys we’d been stockpiling in the attic. She said no.
Last year, she told me it was probably time, but I hesitated. Maybe one more
kid? Maybe?

This year, we’re trying to sell the house and move. We
agreed: The shit goes.

Across my parents’ backyard, I had tables, boards, bins and
more holding an array of clothing we’d saved since her birth. A timeline in
cotton, if you will.

The tiniest onsies had me marveling at how small she was.
The coats I swear she just wore were several sizes too small for her.

The other day, she asked if I could measure her, as she’s
desperate to grow large enough so that she doesn’t have to use a booster seat
in the car anymore.

She’s pushing to grow bigger. I’m begging for just one more
year when I can carry her around the house.

For her, time is that stubborn enemy, the thing that’s
standing between her and getting somewhere she wants to be.

For me, time has become that fun-house mirror that shows me
something odd and laughable.

Each time I walk around campus, I see students who are 18,
19, 20. I don’t see myself as being that horribly much older than they are. I
think my perceptual clock stopped around 28. Me being called “doctor” always
feels ridiculous. I forget to shave for days at a time. I show up for class in
a T-shirt. I say “dude” way too much for someone in my position. The only time
I’m truly reminded of my age is when I mention something I remember from
college and they remind me that they weren’t born yet. Either that or after I
work in the yard for hours on end and then I wake up the next morning feeling
like a Sherman Tank drove over me a few dozen times.

My physical clock jumped ahead to 83.

My mental clock is that of a 12-year-old boy, or just about
the same as my dad.

He turns 70 this year, but you’d never know it. He still
thinks it’s funny when he can quietly fart and fumigate a room. He also can’t
go more than about an hour without telling a joke that would get him fired from
any workplace in America, if he weren’t already retired.

For a long while, he and my mother used to read the
obituaries in the local paper and ponder if they knew anyone or if so and so
was someone’s mother. Now, they ponder less, know more and often find peers
dotting the columns of newsprint.

It’s like when Dad used to grump at me as he’d try to give
me something of his.

“But that’s yours!” I’d protest.

“You’re going to get it all when I die anyways,” he grunt.

He does that less now. I argue less as well. I think neither
of us want to think about how there are more people in his age bracket in the
obits than their used to be.

When it comes to Mom and Dad, I try to make sure that each
hug means a lot, but that I’m not thinking too much about it as to avoid
becoming maudlin.

Shakespeare nailed it in MacBeth when he wrote about how
time “creeps in this petty pace from day to day.” The consistency of each
second, each minute, each hour each day is something that is both remarkable
and disturbing.

We want some kinds of time to slow down, others to speed up.
We want certain time to come faster and other time to go more quickly.

And yet, there it is: each second just like the one before
it. No better, no worse. Just the same.

Some weeks I pray for the weekend. The grind gets to me and
I see that Friday night lifeboat calling to me. This week, I’m praying for
Monday, so the weekend gets over quickly, my wife gets home from a trip and
maybe my agent will get some calls from people who want to buy this house so we
can move to the house we desperately want and get on with life.

Time smiles an admonishment.

Tick, tick, tick becomes “Tsk, tsk, tsk.”

C’mon, Doc, it says. You know better.

And I do. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

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