“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man, alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.” ― Mitch Albom, The Timekeeper
I’m retired and time doesn’t mean as much as it used to. Since retirement I have had trouble remembering what day of the week it is. Every day is a weekend. But since I’m celebrating another birthday time seems important today.
I should say, the LACK of time seems important. I can’t see the road ahead, but I know it is much shorter than the road behind. I’m not afraid of the dwindling “sands through the hourglass” but it does give me pause to ponder. Everyone does a bit of introspection and self-evaluation on their birthdays…don’t you?
There was a time when my personality resembled Alice’s White Rabbit, “Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!” I was taught that “on time” was at least thirty minutes early. Now I find myself more in tune with the March Hare or Mad Hatter than the White Rabbit. I no longer desire to go anywhere that will dock me for being late.
I should have an “unbirthday party” and invite the Hare and Hatter to join me. I just won’t tell them what time to have the tea and cake ready. “Just come whenever. I will piddle until you get here.” I will make sure the Hookah Smoking Caterpillar knows to arrive early and will make sure he knows to bring his “srooms.” “Whooo…are…You?” A seventy-two-year-old hippie who has no need for time.
Seventy-two. Boo Hoo. Considering the alternative, seventy-two aint bad.
If I’m not moving, I don’t feel like I’m seventy-two. The mirror says I’m seventy-two. My knees tell me I’m seventy-two. There are myriads of other indicators when I move about. If I must bend over or kneel, I contemplate how many activities I might complete before having to stand again.
Getting up in the morning is a ritual of assessment. “What is not working quite right today?” I’m at a loss. Sometimes getting out of bed is akin to falling off a ten-foot ladder. I must have slept on my head; my neck is killing me. Other days I bounce out and fear I died during the night because nothing hurts.
“I Don’t Know How to Act My Age. I’ve Never Been This Old Before!” I saw the sentiment embroidered on a hat worn by a man a good twenty years my junior. Jackass! I can relate. How am I supposed to act and why do these other seventy-two-year-olds look so ancient?
A reframe from Jimmy Buffett’s “Nothing but a Breeze” hits me like a brick. “One day I’ll be an old gray grandpa. All the pretty girls will call me “sir!” Now, where they’re asking me how things are. Soon they’ll ask me how things were?” Unfortunately, Buffett’s one day and mine are in our rear-view mirrors. Like Buffett my hair has not only turned gray, but it has also turned loose. I should have started saving earlier for hair replacement.
I think I’ve got a cure for my birthday. I’m going feral and take Mitch Albom to heart. I’m ditching my watch and will tear up all my calendars. I will act like the birds, dogs, and deer…except I’ll wear clothing. I haven’t gone that far around the bend. Time will run out, but I don’t have to look at a clock or calendar and count off the minutes and days.
If that plan doesn’t work, I’ll just sing another Buffett tune, “Trip Around the Sun.” “Yes, I’ll make a resolution, that I’ll never make another one. Just enjoy this ride – on my trip around the sun. Just enjoy this ride – till it’s done.”
Much to our detriment, man created time. I have a watch, a clock on my wall and on top of my bedside table so it can greet me in the morning and tell me to sleep tight as I say my “Now I lay me down to sleep.” My phone and computer tell me the time and the date. There is a calendar on my kitchen wall. The truth is inescapable, it is impossible to escape time and birthdays while above ground.
Time is a human construct and even the understanding of time has changed…over time. Just ask Einstein…well we can’t because Albert has transitioned to the great cosmic relativity after his last trip around the sun…maybe. I like to think death simply brings another reality that doesn’t involve time.
“I bought a cheap watch from the crazy man floating down Canal. It doesn’t use numbers or moving hands, it always just says “now.” Now you may be thinking that I was had, but this watch is never wrong, and if I had trouble, the warranty said: Breathe in, breathe out, move on.”
Between Mitch Albom, Alice, and her Wonderland, and Jimmy Buffett I’ll find an answer…or die trying.
With apologies to all the non-Buffett fans but I’m celebrating my latest trip around the sun! “Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me….”
His latest release is Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes: More Musings From a Mad Southerner. It may be purchased in paperback or downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09GNZFXFT/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i1