It occurs to me that there is less than 12 full weeks left in 2019. I can tell that I’m old because I think about how time flies. A lot. Old folks say things like:
“It seems like 1969 was only yesterday.”
And since I just said that, I qualify as over-the-hill. The grey hair and the awkward way I get up off the floor could be a give-away, but it’s the way I view the passing of time that really tells the story.
Young people never think about how time flies. For them, time is forever. Or, time moves so slowly that it keeps them from the things they hope for. My almost-five-year-old granddaughter can’t wait for Christmas. Ten weeks is an eternity to her.
She stayed with us a couple nights ago. She discovered Monopoly. And the little booger is pretty good at it. We wrestled. I almost died. She road on my back around the room with me on all fours, and I neighed like a horse. Something I wouldn’t do for just anybody. Then I collapsed like a dead horse.
She asked me, “Do you want me to walk on your back?”
Her mother has trained her to think that this is a game. Smart Mom. The horse rolled over on his stomach, and little 40 pound feet began to walk out the kinks. I thought for a moment that maybe she could come over every night around 7:30, just before bedtime, and we could play this game more often.
“Only kids can do this,” she said. “Humans can’t do this.” Which is her way of thinking of adults. Two categories. Kids and humans. And she is logical about it.
“If a human did this, they might step on your head and squash it dead like a tomato.” Which made perfect sense to me.
She asked how long until Christmas comes, and when I told her it would be here before you know it. Ten weeks. She fell out in a panic. I might as well have told her that Christmas was lost forever.
When you’re 14, you can’t wait until you’re 16. It’s the slowest 2 years of the last millennium. When you’re 16, you can’t wait until you’re 18, or 21, so that all the legal freedoms of an adult can be yours. But I can tell you that being of legal age to do all things you dreamed of doing and having all the freedoms to do whatever you want to do is really just a cruel trick.
Time catches up to you. It gets by you before you know it.
“Don’t be wishing your life away,” my Mama would tell me. “One of these days you’re going look back and wonder where it all went.” She was right. She was right about a lot of things. I know now that I was dumber than a box of rocks at 17 and was too impatient to realize it.
Somewhere around the age of 30, the pressure of time starts to creep in on you. You don’t want to cross that threshold. You realize that when you were 16 you thought that anyone 30 years old had one foot in the grave. Then, you’re there. One day you wake up and you’ve got rent to pay. Some kid in the next room cries at night and you haven’t slept in months. High school was a million years ago. The Walking Dead is your life.
I am now more than 30 years past 30. I refer to people in their 30s as “young folks.” Some of them call me Mr. Chappell, which at one time in the past caught me off guard. I resisted it. I didn’t want it to be that time. But now I accept it as the stripes I’ve earned.
Time moves on like a river. The channel cut by the moving water is always there, but the water that passes by in front of you is never the same water that was there yesterday, nor is it the water that will be there tomorrow. If you could stand along the bank of your life, you could look both ways and see a little bit of the life that has moved on downstream and some of the life that is flowing toward you. Nothing slows it down. Nothing rushes it ahead. The flow of time just keeps on moving by.
The other day, Beth and I went to Selma to clean out the last few things from the house where she grew up. There is now a new owner for the first time since 1964. The passing of time loomed all around us. Every room was full of it. I gave her “the ring” in that living room. Her Dad sat in his lazy boy in that corner, in his boxer shorts and a wife-beater-T, and held our kids in his lap. We ate a million meals in that kitchen. But time has caught up with us.
She quietly cried a little bit. I don’t blame her. We looked up river and could see a day when our kids would be standing in our house walking back through time. We could feel it coming. They don’t see it yet. But we do.
Then, she laid the keys on the kitchen counter. We walked out the back door. She turned the lock and closed it for the last time in her life.
It seems like only yesterday that I walked into that house for the first time over 40 years ago. My, my, my how time flies.