Friday, March 5, 2010

Because Time Passes

Guest post by Allison 
For the past few weeks, as the snow fell relentlessly in our corner of New Jersey, I've been hosting a private pity party, wondering what I am supposed to do with all the hours on my hands. My life has felt suspended in time. It’s not that I'm without purpose. I teach one class a week at a community college, and I am prepping to take a professional exam to launch a full-time career teaching English. I am involved in coordinating our parish youth group and am singing in the choir.  But my husband works very full days and is coaching rec basketball; our sons keep busy with school, sports, and music. Their own busyness has given me plenty of time to brood.

Yesterday afternoon, I had a conversation with our eldest son that shook me out of my sulking. Our eighth grader returned home from school and told me with a smile:  (1) he has been recruited for the freshman football team and (2) he’d like to take a certain girl to the eighth-grade dance and (3) he’d like to save up for an electric bass guitar.

I had become accustomed to thinking of our eldest as a boy who shunned sports, played upright bass in a chamber orchestra, and was content to observe life from the comfort of his thoughts and books. Now, a better description would be: my son is a self-assured  young man. Here was a remarkable reminder that time passes.

Half a lifetime ago, I mourned the passage of time. Now, thanks to my faith, I treasure every moment. I see God revealing Himself through just about everything, including the unfolding of our son's life.

For some reason, our son's announcements dislodged a memory of myself as a depressed and maudlin twenty-something. In the years immediately following college, I moved a lot for my newspaper reporting career. Whenever I would pack up for yet another career move, I would rifle through boxes of old photos and letters, mulling what to keep and what to toss. My mind would fixate on the notion that  time never stands still and that what happens today will be a memory tomorrow, and forgotten in 10 or 100 years. I’d weep over this.

When I was 25, I landed my first job after graduate school as a reporter at a suburban Boston newspaper. I remember a day off walking alone, exploring my Dorchester neighborhood. I walked past a cemetery. I remember thinking: if I were to die today, say, get hit by a car, where would I be buried? Who would care that I had lived? Who would mourn my passing? Who will even know of my existence in 10 or 20 years? Who, in 100 years, will even remember anyone who is alive now? (Did I mention the day was gray? )

I’ve believed in God my whole life. And if you'd asked me during that walk where my death would take me, I would have told you straight to heaven. But God then for me was a distant figure, someone who set the Universe into motion and then sat back, way back, observing our transient lives, disinterested in their vagaries. I would need to wait until I died to encounter God, I thought. 

Since that bleak walk through Dorchester, I met and married my true love and gave birth to two glorious sons. My husband and I have settled into the same town for the past 15 years. Through time, we have grown more orthodox in our beliefs about God, closer to our Catholic faith and, more consistent  in our  practice of it.

Once, I feared time. In and through the gift of time, however, I now find comfort in understanding God exists both in and beyond time.

My faith in God, which answers my questions about the meaning of my own existence, did not settle into me on a certain day and time. I didn't have an altar call or fall off a horse. But now I am able to see the hand of God in the life of the son who soon will have to look down to look me in the eye.