A fight against time

Last week while leaving the city, I saw a plump and placid-faced boy in a stroller shove animal crackers into his mouth like a hamster. My eyes welled up before I could process why. My kids – now 7 and eleven, and all arms, legs and bones – were that age just yesterday. It’s a bitter-sweet song, life – that my boys will always be my sons, but with each passing day, we lose our children to the inevitability of passing time.

It is a sentimental lie to believe otherwise.

I remember when my oldest son held his newborn brother, dwarfing him by comparison. I remember thinking, stunned, that he was just that small, like, yesterday. But in fact, three years had passed since big brother was such a bundle. Shocked at the passing of time, which slips by like thief in the night unnoticed, I vowed then to live each day in the present, and the rest be damned. And I have.

But alas, 7 years later, a chubby-cheeked kid with cookies reminds me of the sting from a thief called time.

There are no watchful vows to guard against the passing of time. No mindful eye that can save us the pain of watching our soft babies grow into stringy boys and eventually into grizzled and bristly men.

Time is the ultimate taker of our things, and leaves only age and fractal memories in its wake.

Time is a dark shadow, a relative of death. And a reminder of its purpose. I’ve always known this.

Many exhausted nights I crept into the boys rooms to see if they were still breathing. Quiet waves of relief washing over me as silent rising and falling tiny cotton-wrapped torsos slumbered peacefully.

I have green-nursery memories of standing there in tranquility, with nothing but a sleeping babe and the distant muffled hiss of central heating and the ticking of clocks, and all other muted and nagging reminders of life’s singular and irreversible direction.

Today, again, and thanks to a cracker-snacking toddler I’ll never know, I’ll forsake my high expectations, I’ll forgo enforcing the rules, and I’ll fall away from demanding anything resembling responsibility.

Just today, because it will be gone tomorrow, I’ll be soft – because soon tomorrow and every day after, these boys no longer will be.


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