I am sitting here in the dawn of another day. I can hear a bird outside singing. A busy bird with lots to say, chirping away. Out front, cars have begun to race by. Rushing off to jobs perhaps that start in ten minutes – 7 am – on maybe 8 or 9, if commute time has to calculate, My dog Cordie just walked into the room, her nails clicking on the hardwood floors. And the grandfather clock in front of me – with its pendulum swinging back and forth in a steady rhythm – reminds me of the whole concept of time: what is, what was, what will be. Time and its steady onward movement, so elusive on one hand, yet undeniable on the other.
I am blessed so far not to have aches and pains as I age. Granted, I grow stiff when on a long car ride, which is relatively new, and I have to watch what I eat and drink, lest I encourage trouble in my digestive system, which is the vulnerable spot in my body. But I’ve been wrestling with that issue for a very long time – even as early as in my twenties – so that doesn’t signal a major passage of time. What does instead are the wrinkles around my mouth and the gradual loss of elasticity to my skin. I am lucky there as well given my olive complexion and show less than many who are moving steadily up in their sixties, but it’s there and I must admit I am often surprised by what new development I see in the mirror. Still, I am not prone to gaze too often at myself in a looking glass so even those telltale signs of time are not so prevalent in my thoughts. I would say the clearest indicator of time for me is watching my little grandchildren as they grow and develop. I suddenly realize that eight years have passed since little Luna’s birth, five for Nico’s and two for Lyla’s. How did that happen? I could swear Luna should be three, Nico two, and Lyla a newborn. But clearly, the math doesn’t work, which gets us back to time.
This past year with Covid-19, time elongated. A day sometimes stretched into what felt like a week, a week into a month, and a month into a year. Everything slowed as all extraneous obligations were suspended. I will admit that for me there was some relief and freedom that came with this new normal. I, who tend to over-obligate, was forced to slow down and remain primarily in one of two places: our home or the orange grove. (And, yes, I do recognize how very lucky I have been to have the orange grove as a respite.) I believe I’ve grown both emotionally and intellectually this past year. I am more centered and also a bit more well-informed about a few important issues that I’ve gotten to explore through more time to read. And I am also more appreciative of what I had regarded as the basics in life in terms of entertainment: restaurants, movie theaters, art museums, and visits with friends. Yes, I had taken these for granted before and am not likely to do that too quickly in the future, given just how fast they were taken away.
One moment that helped me recognize the ever-forward movement of time was almost a year ago when I began to see through my left eye tiny black dots floating through the air. I was standing in the doorway of the Aistream, looking out at the new day, when these jet black spheres began to float by. I was puzzled. What could be happening? An hour later, I was sitting with Liz, Ron, and Ray around the table near the kitchen when I suddenly saw a gray cloud at the bottom of my left eye. I said, “Oh, goodness. I’m seeing something very odd.” A few minutes later, Ray called our physician daughter, Sarah, and she asked me a series of questions to determine whether or not I needed to go to the emergency room. This was in the early Covid days and no one wanted to go near a hospital for anything. Sarah told me to contact my ophthalmologist, but in the meantime, to buy an eye patch and put it on immediately. She wasn’t sure what was happening but knew I needed to rest my eye. I did as I was told and spent the rest of the day wearing that patch and resting. I also spent a good deal of time recognizing that if something terrible had happened with my sight, then life as I had known it was now over. I tried looking at the computer and soon felt eye-strain with my one “good” eye. I knew that spending hours writing at a computer would be a thing of the past if my other eye was somehow impaired.
As it turned out when I finally was examined, I had developed floaters in my left eye, something the doctor said was common for “older” people. No worries. The gray cloud would settle below my vision at some point in the near future and only a pesky black mass would remain floating in my eye, something that I would get used to. The utter casualness of the doctor as he described my age-related malady took me aback. For him, it was nothing, for me, it signified my place on the space-time continuum like nothing previously ever had. He was right, all is well and I can see just fine. Still, I began to recognize that time moves forward whether I notice it or not, and will eventually result in me shuffling off this mortal coil.
The thought of dying is not something that’s new to me or most people, I suspect. We all face that possibility on a daily basis in actuality. A random fall, a near-miss with a speeding vehicle on the freeway, the knowledge that people often die in ways they least expect. The tv show “1000 Ways to Die” will make that case, if you don’t actually think that way. So dying is not my point here. Not that I want that, but it is beyond my control. This is more about the recognition that as time passes, I will navigate through life with a new normal imposed by aging and that time is coming whether I like it or not. My older friends are no doubt shrugging their shoulders and thinking, “What else is new?” However, for me this is new. I am on the cusp of a new era and, if I’m lucky, I will get to live a good many years in the future. I hope I can live them gracefully, full of vim and vigor and embracing the importance of doing what I want now rather than relegating it to some vague time in the future.
That little bird outside singing with such enthusiasm seems to have a message for me:
Enjoy the sunshine
I believe I’ll go now, grab a jacket and step outside. Why not? Right now, in this moment, I have time.