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Let’s talk about time passing
Feb. 5, 2023 6:00 am
As an elderly man I worry entirely too much about time and, secondarily, about the annoying thing we call mortality, once a concept, now a harsh reality for those my age. Until just a few years ago I believed mortality was for others, not for me.
So, let us talk, you and I, about humility, about life, about time passing. Recently I was chatting it up with a couple of employees at my bank, two bright, delightful women, one in her late 20s and the other I’d guess to be fifty or so. The subject of age came up and I asked the younger woman, “How old do you think I am?”
This is where the clouds opened up, and torrential rains of humility fell heavily all round. “Well, you’re wise,” the young woman said, “So I’d say you’re about 80.” Oh my. I’ll leave this little scene alone; however, I will carry it with me for a long time.
Yesterday, while in my usual chair, reading a magazine, I caught a bit of movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a snow-globe moment. About thirty feet away, in a field in front of my house a lone deer was slowly making her way west across the snowy tundra, a slight dusting of new snow on her back. Then came another, then another, single file, making their gentle, deliberate way through swirling snow, destination unknown. All told, nine passed in front of me, unaware that an old man stopped what he was doing and watched in awe as the very definition of grace stepped by.
Time is an extraordinary concept. At this moment there are good people somewhere on earth gathered in cemeteries, listening to heartfelt words about a loved one who has passed, a loved one whose history has ended, a loved one we should have known more about, been more curious, a loved who one day will come up in conversation when someone says something like, “What was the name of that guy, the guy with the long hair we used to see at the grocery store?” Or “Whatever happened to that one woman? You know, the pretty lunch lady up at the school? She was so nice to me.”
Somewhere in regional airports there are rumpled business travelers sipping much-too pricey beer, bored, luggage at their sides, television monitors blazing, volume silenced, monotone voices from overhead audio systems calling out flights and delays, aloneness personified. Wait for me dear. I’ll be home soon. Give my love to the kids.
Speaking of kids, at this moment, somewhere in the world young boys and girls are streaming into classrooms, most never knowing that in some countries girls are not allowed the same privileges, another generation of second or third-class citizens, resentful and helpless, unable to topple ignorant men, unable to show their enormous worth.
And somewhere a man of a certain age is standing in his driveway, head tipped back, gathering in as many stars as he can, enjoying the silence, looking forward to February, feeling the glow of a crescent moon and the Milky Way hovering low overhead. He moves toward the house, ignoring the evening chill he carefully and, with sweet permission, places his right hand around the waist of a beautiful woman hoping, that when the time comes, she will agree to dance with him, maybe a slow dance, perhaps to the velvet voices of Frank Sinatra or Nat Cole, a dance now and forever, a comfortable cadence known only to the two of them, a dance to the end of time.
Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County. His book “The Iowa State Fair” is available from the University of Iowa Press.
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