I think time, both speeds up and slows down, as you get older. Not at any specific age, but whatever age a person is when they finally realize time is running out. Maybe not next month or next year, but whenever that very late stage of life hits you.
Quite possibly, it speeds up because your body fails more frequently and more easily. The increments when you feel older than before get closer and closer, like highway mile markers as you drive faster. Maybe life just seems to speed up because you desperately want it to slow down. On the other hand, maybe it slows down because as you enter into those later years, the details of life, the micro parts, develop a routine and life of their own.
I’ve been talking a lot with my father lately. That part isn’t unusual. He’s almost 95,
and we’ve always had a good relationship. I think we both realize time is running short, and every moment is important. It doesn’t have to be a fun or memorable moment. At this point, every moment is something I think we both hang on to.
Recently, I’ve had the chance to have some pretty meaningful conversations with my father. I’ve asked him questions I might not have in the past, knowing time is sliding by. My mother hasn’t been well over the last several years, so I’ve seen both of them much more often during this time. About two months ago, she took a fall and broke her hip. Between the hospital and rehabilitation, she was gone over a month, and during that time, my father stayed with my wife and me. So we’ve had the opportunity, and sometimes necessity to see each other much more often lately, and in turn, have probably become closer than we’ve ever been.
Recently, I asked him how he sees himself, and at what age and where in life he is, when he thinks about himself from a third person perspective. When I look at him, and when I experience him, I see an elderly man who is becoming much frailer as time wears on. But I also have other perspectives… I’ve always been the one at family gatherings with a camera in my hand, and I have tons of family photographs to draw from. My father was the same way. My parents have a treasure trove of family photo albums going all the way back to their engagement. I’ve scanned maybe 350-400 of those older photos. So when I see my father, I do see an unstable, elderly man, slowed in so many ways, struggling not to let time do what it’s going to do. But I also see the young man in his early twenties leaning against his car with that devilish smile on his face. I see a man in his thirties, taking the family camping. In my mind’s eye, I see the man who taught me to change a tire, and the man who talked with me privately when I was having a tough time in high school. I see so many versions of him, I wondered if he saw himself as the 94-year-old he is, or did he see a version of himself from an earlier stage of life.
While he was living with us, and as I was getting a view, every day, of how quickly my father was aging, and how time was speeding up, I was inspired to write a poem about the concept that quite possibly, people see the elderly one way, but the elderly see themselves in some entirely different fashion. At some point, with poem finished, I asked him how he saw himself, just so I could know if I was feeling in my poem what he was feeling inside. He responded, “Back before cable (he used to own “Bud’s TV Service”), I used to take a 40 foot ladder, pull it up and push it up against the peak of a house, and I’d go up and down that ladder. And I’d go up and down the slope of the roof of the house like it was nothing. I’d nail brackets into chimneys to install the antennas. There was nothing wrong with me. I could do anything. I had the world at my command”. That’s exactly what he said. Right off the top of his head. I found it a very emotional thing to hear because I felt, for him, it was such an emotional thing to feel. And miss.
Every so often, while he was living with us, I’d get a peek at the turmoil currently flowing through him. One morning, he was eating breakfast. I was sitting there also, and I happened to look up and see him really deep in thought. I asked him what he was thinking and he responded, “I’m trying to figure out when it happened. I used to be so capable. I was stable. I used to do anything I wanted. Now I’m unstable, and I can’t do a lot of things. I’m trying to remember when it happened”. Once, as we were visiting my mother at the rehabilitation center, he got out of my car and had to stand there for a bit, finding his stability before moving on. As we were walking towards the building, he just kind of murmured to me, “Ya know David, time just keeps on chasing me”.
“Time just keeps on chasing me”. Yes it does Dad, yes it does. That young man leaning against his car, to the guy running over rooftops, to the man who has to stabilize himself when he stands. When he took the family camping, he was close to half my own current age. When my wife, Wendy, and I got married, my father was still younger than I am currently. Now he’s mid-nineties. Time doesn’t quit. And it chases all of us.
So what does all this mean? Probably different things to different people, including myself.
There’s a lesson here, or a bunch of them, though I haven’t corralled them all into a neatly curated list. But for now, there’s only so much time in each of us, and there are certain relationships that are worth investing in and creating experiences and bonds that are different from the rest. They don’t have to be extraordinary experiences. Good conversation, time spent together during lunch, maybe the occasional car trip, whatever those experiences turn out to be, that gives you time and brings you together. That gives you an opportunity to experience and appreciate each other with intent…. those moments, with someone important… it’s profound to understand in real time, and not in hindsight, how special they are.
David S. Chorney
This is where I'm supposed to write something about myself. I still have some hair left. I am still undecided which I like better, photography or painting. My four major food group are seafood, melted cheese, pasta, and Advil. I love the hunt of a finished piece of art. All quotes, essays, stories, and any other written piece on this website, are original and written by yours truly, unless otherwise noted.