The Incredible Speeding Time Machine
There’s this amazing phenomenon that begins to happen as you move beyond young adulthood and into middle age. Time speeds up. Sometimes it’s in a “time flies when you’re having fun way,” but most of the time, it’s just time barreling forward. Take this summer for instance…a great summer, full of fantastic outings, outdoor activities and even a few lazy days, but it’s all happened in a blur.
Living in the South, my kids get out of school just before Memorial Day, so late May. It’s been 2 1/2 months since then…about 10 weeks. That’s 70 days; it’s 1,680 hours. That’s a decent amount of time. And, during that time, we’ve spent a week at the beach, a long weekend in the mountains, and spent countless evenings or afternoons at the pool. The kids did swim team for 5 weeks; my daughter, mother and I had the trip of a lifetime in London; and my kids even fit in several camps — my son focusing on science, cooking and drama and my daughter doing a high-adventure ropes sleep-away camp. Meanwhile, I’ve worked…taken numerous business trips, launched new programs and big, huge meaty events, communicated news to thousands of employees and worked some more. When you pack all that in, 70 days or 1, 680 hours doesn’t seem enough. No wonder it seems to have flown by!
This is where it gets serious though. Because in addition to all of that, we also learned this summer that my stepfather — my Mom’s husband…my kid’s grandfather — who has been fighting cancer, doesn’t have anymore treatment options. And, amid all the summer “stuff,” I’ve been watching my family suffer as they take in this news. All of sudden, it isn’t just an interesting phenomenon…this time passing too quickly thing. All of a sudden there truly isn’t enough time…at all…for anyone.
You see, this is the summer I officially became the sandwich generation…not because my parents need caretaking. They are strong, able, sharp people. But, because I’m in the middle of caring for my children and giving them what I hope is a wealth of experiences AND helping my mother face into a life-changing transition in her life. She’s caring for her husband. She’s scared and not wanting this to happen. She’s dealing with the unknown, and I want to help. My Mom and I have always relied on each other to a fault. And, in this case, I want to be able to ease the fear, make it all better, help her have the answers. Yet, I can’t. This is one of those things you have to live to find out what will come next. You can’t really shape it. And, that’s hard.
It’s hard enough that you just want to say, “Stop. Hold on. Let’s all take a break here; slow things up and figure this out.” But, time doesn’t allow for that. Life doesn’t allow for that. My kids still have needs. My job still has demands. And, time…it just keeps moving, in a blur. I tend to be a person who likes to be in control of things. So, why can’t I slow it down a bit? It’s because…and here’s a really profound thought, I know… time is fixed. Setting aside the dripping sarcasm of that last thought, the fact is every minute is still 60 seconds. It can be mind-boggling when you realize these minutes are the exact same as those I experienced when I was young, single, being cared for by my parents and was often bored watching the clock tick slowly by. The time going by now is ostensibly the same as when everyone was healthy and able and happy.
Time is relentless. So, it just keeps marching on. All the emails have started back up again…the “don’t forget the 8th grade band trip and all the paperwork you need to complete to ready our child for it” and the “sign up for drama classes or you’ll miss out” and the “be at student orientation by 8 a.m.” and “be sure you have purchased your $300 worth of mandatory school supplies by X date” emails. There are those and more pouring into my inbox. Work continues to demand my attention. Yet, all that really matters is that we ensure my stepfather and my mother are enjoying every minute of this precious time…the time when he’s still strong. We don’t know how long that will last. We hope it will be a very, very long time. In the meantime, life continues, for all of us, and we have to make the most of it. Actually, out of all of us, he seems to get this more than anyone. And, just like him, we have to embrace it. We have to embrace the time we have.
Sandwiched or not, that’s what I intend to do…continue living life even as it speeds up and goes by lightning fast. Blink and it could be gone. Or, watch and enjoy the light show. That, my friends, is the current dilemma of this one normal woman.