This year marks the tenth year I've been retired.
In that decade, Joyce and I have counted ten birthdays. We've added a grandchild and two great grandchildren. We've traveled to Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, Delaware. I've lost both my parents. We bought a Jaguar XK8. We sold a Jaguar XK8. We've reunited with old friends from college and high school, joked, laughed, suffered, and cried. In short, we have lived.
In short, indeed.
Looking at a coming decade as it approaches, ten years seems a very long time.
But looking back on the same decade, the span of ten years seems breathtakingly short, brief as the light from a wooden match.
Why is that?
Where does the time go?
Across the morning sky, all the birds are leaving...
In your youth, time creeps. That hour before school lets out seems interminable. Adolescent time crawls slowly along, tortoise like, in spite of your attempts to lean into it, to push it forward faster and faster toward the world of adult possibility.
But once you grow into that adult world, once you're in your early twenties, it's like jumping on a bullet train as it hurtles through the unknown at near warp speed. You struggle to get your balance and then hang on for dear life as the train flies down the corridor of time. The days blur into weeks and months and years.
You're so caught up in the rush of days and nights you barely notice the seasons turning. Forty years pass. You see four decades in the rear view mirror. But it's one of those weird mirrors where everything is changed, the time that is reflected back at you seems much shorter than it was. The four decades are four hours now. And then one day you reach for a cup of coffee and you see your hand is wrinkled and it shakes a bit. You look in that weird mirror at your own image and you're 60.
You try to keep your balance as things begin to slow. But the momentum you've built up carries you along, rapidly at first, and then slower and slower...64....65.....66. And then finally at 70 you slow down. Way down. Almost to a stop. And you look back.
Everything you've experienced, everything you've done seems to have gone by so quickly it makes you motion sick. Everything is spinning around fast but your head is spinning slower. The significance of an individual moment, the importance of that big meeting, the heat of your anger during that confrontation, all of it has been peeled away by the headlong and furious rush toward entropy.
In these slower days of remembrance and the sometimes futile attempts to make it all make sense, you may doubt if the journey itself had meaning. It's quite possible, you say, that it was a journey full of sound and fury which signified nothing.
But you were there, by God. You were living it. Think back. That one frightening at bat in Little League which turned into a home run trot. And that time on a spring night on Reservoir Hill, when you popped the question. That all day oral and written qualifying exam. That time when the rotten proscenium curtain fell an hour before opening night. That risky speech to the division which changed your life.
Think what you will now, those things and a thousand others just like them meant everything at the time.
And it was good and bad. Bitter and sweet. And there was love. And children. And though parts might have been rough and you made mistakes, you picked up the slack, you forgave and were forgiven. You dug in and took a stand and fought the battles that needed to be fought.
But damn, it all went fast.
Where did the time go?
Sad, deserted shore, your fickle friends are leaving
Ah, but then you know, it's time for them to go...
"Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire."
Jorge Luis Borges