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How Time Warps Along

Where does the time go? Around our house, we talk a lot about the goofy warp and wobble of time.

Miss Ellie has never been overly concerned with what time it is. I, on the other hand, am so punctual that it probably ranks as a sickness. This has caused vigorous philosophical discussions.

She swears that there is a point on U.S. 60 in El Mirage where she loses an entire hour–but only if she is inbound toward Peoria and Phoenix. She leaves El Mirage at one time, and arrives in Youngtown, half a mile away, an hour later.

I have heard hunters and fishermen tell that same story to their wives, but I was never lucky enough to lose an hour. I misplace decades.

I was born in 1935 in Peoria, in a house I helped my father build. Last year, someone razed that house. Although I am now old, and in most ways wise, I have a lot of questions about where the time went.

Time did not elapse at a uniform rate. I’m not a mathematical genius like Norman Einstein, who could figure these things out. Einstein is in trouble again, anyway. Australian scientists suggest that the speed of light is not really constant, like we were all counting on.

That would trash Einstein’s theory of relativity. I’m glad that I never took the time to figure out that theory. There has to be some easier way to figure out who is a second cousin, and who is a first cousin, once-removed.

I have been told, in fact, that the theory does not even mean that things are relative; it means the opposite. Although things in our universe may seem different to different observers, depending on whether those observers are related, there are certain constants that don’t change.

That has not been my experience. Why does a single summer day, waiting for a lab report, take longer to pass than the previous 25 years?

Why did the first 12 years of my life last longer than the next 84 years? And why did the four years between age12 and age 16 drag on longer than the first dozen?

Why am I younger now than I was in 1974, and who forgot to tell my body?

At some point, time began to accelerate, hurtling along, dragging me with it. What happened to 1996, and 2001?

My mom was in her forties when she described to me how time was speeding up. As I aged enough to observe the same phenomenon, we’d compare notes. I’d tell her how fast my life was passing, and she’d say, “You’d ought to see
it from in here.”

The acceleration was validated again lately when my eldest son, who is nearing 42, began to define the same wacky index of time, using different numbers.

I was amazed when my children became fortyish, and one of my grandchilden passed 20. Mom laughed and asked me
to consider her plight–two sons in their 60s, a daughter not far behind.

At about the time Mom explained the acceleration of time, she also introduced me to the child inside. She didn’t feel much differently inside than she had at 18, she said. I swore that when I got older, I would feel older, like a sensible person, but I never did.

My mother, Ruby Cook, died in May, just short of her 90th birthday. I believe that inside a tiny body ravaged by age and disease, she was still a kid, looking for a laugh.

In July, Miss Ellie’s mother, Rosemary Barnes Atkins, died. She also was just short of her 90th birthday, and she still had a playful lilt in her cultured New England voice.

We are grateful to have belonged to these grand ladies, born in the same year, 1912. Miss Ellie is now matriarch of her branch of the Atkins clan, and I’m oldest in my nuclear clan.

We are much too young for this honor. But we don’t have enough time left to worry about it, or to feel sorry for
ourselves.

Mom’s passing made me think more about my dad, who died 20 years ago, and about our relative places on the weird index of time.

When I was seven, the present age of my youngest grandchild, Mom would have been 30 and Dad 31, half a generation younger than any of my kids today. (I count a generation as around 20 years, time enough to reproduce oneself.)

My parents seemed old to me then, and they continued to be about the same amount older than I was. Dad would be 91 this year. I thought a lot about him while the Rodeo Chediski fire was ravaging the forests of Arizona.

He spent 30 years with the U.S. Forest Service, and was a skilled firefighter. But he retired 31 years ago, when he was younger then than I am now. He retired longer ago than he spent on the job. That could make me feel old.

My salad days were in the 1950s. My parents’ salad days were the roaring ’20s, which seemed to me an impossibly long time before the storied ’50s.

About 1952, I owned a 1929 Model A Ford. It seemed ancient. Yet that car was then less than half the age of the
restored 1952 Fords that I see today. I don’t feel as though I’ve aged that much in 50 years.

My unrestored body disagrees. This is a free country, and every body has a right to its own opinion.

Last 5 posts by Jim Cook

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