The Gravity of Time

My brother graduates from high school next week, and he moved out of parents’ house this past weekend. I really can’t believe it. I remember vividly the day we brought him home; I was eleven when he was born. Over the years, I helped change his diapers and I helped him with his homework. I encouraged him. I fussed at him and I occasionally tanned his hide for him when he needed it. I watched him struggle with acne. I watched him excel at school. I told him he needed to grow up a million times when he was acting like a turd. Now he is. Grown up, I mean.

He’s still a turd most of the time too, but that’s besides the point.

How exactly did he get this old? Didn’t I just graduate high school? How did so much time fly by? I want the answers to these questions. And most of all, why don’t I feel this old? I am on the inside of my body, and I’m watching as the outside is garnering the effects of age. A fine line here. A little paunch there. The gravity of time takes the beauty of all.

I guess I’m also a wee bit jealous. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life, but I’ve never been much for planning the future. I find that the present moment demands every ounce of my attention. It’s both a blessing and a curse. My life may not be a dream, but I’m relatively happy at least. What I’m truly jealous of is all that potential. Don’t you remember what that was like? To have all those choices before you? To have all that power to shape your life? To be whatever person struck your fancy? I wish I had paid more attention back then, been more deliberate, chose my path instead of floating along the way I did. I suppose that’s a choice I made too.

I’ve been trying to find the words to explain this to my brother, but I am not gifted in the oratory department. I stumble over my words in real life conversation. I don’t really think it matters anyway. Like all eighteen year olds, he alone holds the secrets of the universe.

But if I could, I would do my best to impress upon him the gravity, the seriousness, of time; that we only get so much of it. Don’t waste it. Don’t regret how you spent it. Look to the future, but try not to worry too much about it. Be deliberate, but don’t let planning take your joy. Put your feet on the path to take you where you’d like to go, and then go do something fun. Make choices, and make sure your good ones are what defines you. Regard things from an eternal perspective, not a temporal one. Be carefree until you find a reason worthy enough not to be.   And in the infamous words of Jack Dawson, make every moment count. God only gives us so many on this earth.

Maybe it’s not too late to take my own advice.

When Fire Meets Gasoline

When I was a kid, I spent an enormous amount of time with my first cousins. We were more like sisters. We all congregated at my Granny’s house through the week when school was out and our parents were at work. There were three of us: Rachel, Chelsey, and Emily, and we were all right around the same age. Rachel was about a year older. Remarkably, Chelsey and I were born on the same day, mere hours apart. I’m the oldest, as I so often liked to point out back then. I have a lot of fond memories of that time, of those long summer days spent entirely outside, playing whatever games we could dream up, just daring to get away with tip-toeing on the large, slab-like rocks that surrounded my Granny’s flower beds, and running down the gigantic hill that made up her yard to catch the ice cream truck. These moments are important to me. They are a part of my story and they’ve helped shaped who I am.

The particular memory I have in mind now happened when I was seven or eight.  When we were that age, our latest obsession was the family roller skating rink. We loved to go hang out in the attached arcade, eat those nasty concession stand nachos, and maybe, just maybe, get asked to skate in the couples’ skate by the cute boy in the Jnco jeans and the Independent hoodie. Even as I write this, I can still smell stale popcorn and the polish they used on the floor. Anyway, this was a day that we wanted to go and our parents said no. This was just Rachel and me; Chelsey wasn’t there that day for whatever reason. I don’t remember whose idea it was. I’m inclined to say it was Rachel’s, but she may remember it differently. We decided that since we couldn’t go to the skating rink that day, we would make our own skating rink. See, my granny’s back porch was concrete, and when it got wet, it was slicker than goose poop. We were both quivering with excitement as we grabbed the jug that granny kept nestled down next to the big standalone freezer on the porch. We wet that bad boy down and slipped and slid until our hearts were content. It occurs to me now, that it’s amazing one of us didn’t break our neck or at least knock some teeth out. We were lucky in more ways than one that day. Soon we tired of our shenanigans, and like young kids do, moved on to another game off in the yard somewhere without another thought. At that point, we didn’t understand what we had done. We were soon enlightened.

Later in the afternoon, my Aunt Angie walked onto the back porch to light a cigarette and smelled gasoline. That’s right. That jug we found by the freezer was red. We had wet down my granny’s back porch with gasoline to create our own personal skating rink. I think it’s important to point out here, that neither Rachel or me even knew what gasoline was. We didn’t do it on purpose, or rather we did, but we didn’t understand that what we were doing was that dangerous.

Unequivocally, that is the worst butt whooping I ever got. And the punishment befitted the crime of nearly burning down my granny’s house.  I deserved it. Truly, I deserved much worse than what I got.

The reason why I share this story with you is because, firstly, I enjoy telling it. It has become one of those stories that we often tell around the holidays when my family is all together and we want to take a trip down memory lane and remember my granny, who went to Heaven several years ago.  But I also tell it because I wonder how close and how often we come to inadvertently and metaphorically burning down someone else’s house.

I see stuff like this on the news all the time. A moment of distracted driving results in two cars wrapped around each other, and a daughter or son who will never come home. If only I’d left a few minutes earlier. If only I hadn’t decided to stay late and work on that project. If only I’d told that person about how Jesus died for them when I had the chance. It’s scary to think that some small decision could hurt others that badly. All it would take is the right set of circumstances, like when fire meets gasoline. And to think that we go around making these types of decisions all day.

Some things are chancy and we have no control over them. I understand and  have peace with that, even though it’s still kind of scary. But we should be careful with our decision maker when we can. It’s the most dangerous weapon we possess.