Monday, Oct 22, 2018
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Marilou Johanek


To a parent, time marches on in the faces of children


Marilou Johanek.

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Would you pause or rewind time if you could? Yes and yes. There are moments in every life worth holding onto a little longer.

There are moments in every life that you might do differently. Too bad time won’t allow either luxury.

It moves relentlessly from birth to death — the dash between beginning and end. The reality of how quickly, time flies is tough to ignore no matter how hard we try.

The evidence is all around us. We see passing time in the faces of our parents, our adult siblings, our lifelong friends. We see time physically and emotionally changing our children.

They’re growing up. It’s a bittersweet moment to watch them on the threshold of becoming young men and women. The babies we once cuddled are evolving into independent creatures who need their space.

It’s a natural and welcome development. But it still tugs at the heartstrings of doting parents.

My epiphany of stealthy time came during a recent high school sports picture day.

My freshman athlete and classmates she has known since preschool are beginning the last part of their secondary education. Other parents warn that the high school years zip by incredibly fast.

In a blink, they say, the kids you remember posing nervously for pictures on the first day of kindergarten will be pursuing their post-high school destinies in careers and colleges. In a blink, the teen smiling at you through braces in a soccer uniform will beam at you in a cap and gown, full of anticipation of all that awaits.

“How did it get so late so soon?” Dr. Seuss lamented. Soon enough the kids giggling for a team photo will be worried about finding a job, raising a family, paying a mortgage.

There’s no time to waste. The 17th century author John Milton called time the subtle thief of youth. It is surely that and more.

Time is a gift. It’s a curse. Time is short, too long, finite, a continuum, an eternity, fleeting, not sufficient. It’s rich, precious, relative, valuable, undervalued.

Time is money. It’s priceless. Free. Time is irreplaceable. Time is nothing. It is your friend, your enemy. It is frittered away.

Time is a teacher. It’s what you make of it. Time is running out. Albert Einstein said time is an illusion. J.K. Rowling said time is making fools of us again.

Carl Sandberg said time is the coin of your life. “It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent,” he wrote. “Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.”

That’s a compass for living. During childhood, time seems to stand still. It looks as if it will stretch on forever.

For a teenager, caught between youth and adulthood, time can be a drag too. But eventually, time picks up speed. We’re dumbfounded by how fast it sprints by when we get older.

The sudden acceleration of life passages appears to catch every new wave of adults by surprise. We delude ourselves about aging, and are caught off guard when time completes human alterations so swiftly.

There’s no time to prepare for the changes. We’re not ready for the overnight transitions that remodel the people we love, let alone ourselves.

On some level, we know that time waits for no man, but couldn’t it slow down a bit? Why the rush of days, years, milestones? What’s the hurry?

Yesterday, I was playing make-believe with my kids. Today, they’re playing it cool with their peers and dramatically unfolding into different people.

I huddle with parents of returning students. We sound like a broken record, marveling at how tall or grown-up the kids look. When did that happen?

The more experienced parents give us a rueful look. They’ve had time to let go, embrace the inevitable. They’ve moved on to relishing new awakenings in their children.

Someday I’ll be there. But not yet. I walk by the grade-school playground. Squeals of delight pierce the air. Young mothers are pushing their children on swings and swapping stories.

That was me only a few years ago. I pause and rewind memories time can’t touch, and brace for whatever time will tell.

Contact Blade columnist Marilou Johanek at:

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