Sitting by the river of time

Opinion: Columns

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By John Hubbuch

This time of the year I find myself thinking about time. I look back. Christmas is a benchmark for our lives. Every year you take time off from work in late December to get together with friends and family. It is often celebrated in the same place with the same people. Christmas Eve and Christmas morning are filled with rituals and traditions. 

I have celebrated 64 Christmases. I remember the magic of waking up very early and staring at the dark corner of my family's living room where we placed the Christmas tree, trying to discern whether Santa had come. I remember the very same experience except I was the observer of my own three little boys. Now I experience the same wonder of Santa with my grandchildren Lily and Ava. It makes me feel good to know I am part of a family chain. 

At one time, I was the youngest link in that chain of shared blood, experience and memory. Now I'm the oldest.

 I find myself thinking of my mom and dad when they were 64, except I am reminded that my mother was dead at 62. It still doesn't seem right that that dear sweet woman missed out on all those Christmases. My dad saw 91 Christmases so I don't feel bad for him. But I find myself comparing him to me at 64. It's hard to do. He was so different from me — a high school graduate who survived the Depression and WWII, living in southern Indiana all his life. His biography is so different from mine, yet as I age I recognize startling similarities in our personalities and world views.

 But I also find myself looking forward to the future. As you age, time tends to accelerate. I retired five years ago, but it feels like only two or three years. I find myself thinking about the end. That begs the question: How often should a 64-year-old think about his death? Daily? Too morbid, even paralyzing. Never? Only if you had a pre-frontal lobotomy. I wish I believed in an afterlife, but I'm 99.9% sure that whatever time I have left in this world is all I have. Fade to black. 

I'm very blessed. I have my health, enough money and my family. So part of me wants to just run the years out, repeating each year in an endless loop. But another part of me wonders if maybe I'm missing something. Should I go to Africa? Read Joyce? Volunteer at a homeless shelter? I'm little envious of those who live in the present. Maybe the Now is life's sweet spot. Then again, maybe Scrooge got it right. At the end of A Christmas Carol, he vows to live in the Past, Present and Future.

Physicists say that time exists independent of the events that occur in time. I don't think so. Time is the river of our lives. We know the source. The challenge is to find the mouth. Make 2014 special. 

Happy New Year!

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