“I’d like ‘Time for 400,’ Alec,” you say, leaning into your microphone and gripping the podium before you. In his low, broad tone, he asks, “What is time?” (long pause and no buzz) “Oh…I’m sorry, but you’ve run out of it!”
The concept of time is an age-old question that countless artists, songwriters, poets and game show hosts have tried to capture for centuries. If I could have time in a bottle, I’d have time on my side, yes I would.
The problem is that it’s impossible to stop and catch time. No net or laser can slow down time’s predictable pace. I guess you could catch a moment with a selfie, but that isn’t the point.
Throughout the human life cycles, time takes on various vantage points. After a spank on the tush, and outside air is first gulped into the lungs, your first reference is when the birthing staff yells out the time you entered the world. Some newborns next hear their mother mutter, “It’s about time you got out of my belly!”
As a baby, there’s no need to understand time. In fact, you have too much time on your hands as an infant; so much you spend most of your time napping. What a life to live where you don’t have to worry about having a tight schedule, can run around in your jammies all day, and can take a nap any time you feel like it. Sounds luxurious…or like retirement.
The next shift in time is in adolescence. Time is perceived as something always getting in the way. Alarm clocks rock the room, to say to the teen, “You better get a move on, or you won’t get to school on time.” Teens also morph into major forward, or future thinkers.
“I can’t wait until I get my first cellphone.”
“ I can’t wait until I can drive.”
“I can’t wait until I’m old enough to move out of my parents house!”
This age group tends to focus on what’s going to happen, instead of what is happening at that moment. They live in the “now move over so I can get what I want” phase.
The way people consider time changes again, when the person has achieved what they feel is enough. This is the I-want-this-moment-in-time-to-never-end stage.
It often occurs on your wedding day, when you get to hold your child for the first time, and when it’s nearing midnight on April 15th and you haven’t started your taxes. If only time could stand still, so you could absorb those dear memories. You definitely need a video camera to catch the precious moments.
Finally, time comes to an end. Why do people say slowly comes to an end? Doesn’t it seem as if the time has flown by for everyone over a certain age?
“Where did the time go?”
“If I just had more time…”
In order to make sure I’m not disappointed at the end of my time, I’m preparing for how I want my story to end. Will it have enough magical moments to be worth repeating or documenting? Or will it just be a rush to the finish? It’s like my grandmother said at the end of her life, “The only thing that matters before you die is the ones you love.”
So recently when I couldn’t think of what to get my father for his birthday, I knew the perfect gift would be spending one-on-one time over lunch. No kids to interrupt us. Not having to stop our conversation to listen to others talking. Quality time involving lots of laughter, discussing the things in common we enjoy, and learning more about each other.
We decided after our time together we were going to do lunch every year, in place of giving gifts to each other. After all, it was his mother who said being with your family is the only thing that matters at the end of your life. Not that you are nearing the end of your life, Dad.
Now I need to call a few other family members to set up lunch dates. (Mom, you’re up next) After all, you never know how much time you’ll get with the ones you love.
(previously published in The Kansas City Star on January 14, 2017)