A Gift of Time

I’ve always had the ability to recognize the happy moments I will miss later in life as I live them.  It’s like a pre-nostalgia – a certain knowledge that in the future, I will lament the fact that I cannot go back to that particular sliver of time.  Nostalgia is a nasty emotion.  Linger in it too long and it grows stronger.  Try to ignore it and it weakens you.  I suppose nostalgia gives us something to yearn for, but that yearning feels awfully hopeless as memories fade.

My children, still young and unaware that they will one day want to have their own lives away from their parents, are at the age now that I know for sure I will miss very much.  Though I often joke about how hard parenting is (and it is), I wouldn’t trade away this time of my life for an easier life of self indulgence.  Being a dad has been an important part of my own growth as a person and fatherhood adds a complexity to my existence that I cannot imagine living without.  My wife and I are still young enough to feel young and our own parents are still active enough to not seem too old.  This is a happy time, which I know I will miss desperately as the years go by.

As a workaround for that pesky problem of aging and lost years, I often imagine that an older me has been granted the wish to come back in time to right now.  I pretend that 95-year-old future me has been given that gift just before death and that my one wish is to come back to 2011 to see my kids as little kids, my wife as a beautiful young woman and to see a world around me still within my grasp. I know it’s a bit strange, but it helps me savor the smallest moments around me that might otherwise slip away under appreciated, or worse, unnoticed.

I suppose it’s something of a nostalgia alarm.

It hits me at strange times.  If I hear them playing and laughing in the other room, I wonder what it will feel like to dream about that very moment one day, when they have long since moved out and I won’t be able to walk in and hug them and play with them.  I picture older me waking from a dream of my happy past, hearing the fading echoes of their young voices evaporate into the darkness around me as reality reclaims an old man from his sleep. I can actually feel the longing (as if I am that old man right now) to run into that room and see them as young children just one more time, to hug them and talk to them and tickle them and play with them and laugh with them.  It’s a longing that I can vividly imagine and it makes my heart hurt.

But then, here I am.  I have not aged and my nostalgia is premature.  I have that opportunity every single moment of every day, I remember and I seize it with relief.  This weird nostalgia alarm seems to go off in my mind each time some piece of me senses that I am missing time with them or that I am ignoring the happy family moments I will later ache for.

Yesterday, I was watching a baseball game in the living room.  It seemed important, although I realize of course that it’s not at all. Outside, Lucy and Zach ran around the yard, chasing hummingbirds and inventing games to keep them laughing.  Emmy crawled in the grass and discovered the brand new world around her.  As I sat on the couch, the happy laughter and squeals from outside faded into the background behind the less important sounds of a televised baseball game.  Inside me, that familiar alarm sounded softly.  “Get out there while you can,” I thought.  A wish granted, I imagined. Suddenly, the laughter outside became the only thing I heard.  I recognized, with some sadness, that I will never wish for the chance to go back in time to see a baseball game on TV.  I turned it off and joined them outside.  Maybe somewhere, future me is enjoying this precious time as if he never aged at all.

Even if not, present me most certainly is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/melanierose3 Melanie Boulanger

    what an awesome perspective to have. thanks for sharing that with us…hopefully we can all learn the same lesson you have.

  • http://www.facebook.com/OhSnapItsBecs Becky Stern

    I think like this all the time but i could never put it into words. So, thanks!

    As Kurt Vonnegut said: “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”
    A quote I try to live my life by :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.lada Karen Lada

    LOVING this!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=593604476 Paul Allen

    Really well written. I’ve had this feeling many times, it’s always good to have something that helps you put your priorities in perspective.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=879260331 Kelly Oxford

    I do this all of the time.

    Looking forward to the next piece Shane.
    Love the photo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jennfoik Jenn Foik

    You’re supposed to make me laugh! NOT cry! I am sitting here bawling my eyes out…beautiful!

  • http://www.facebook.com/samantha.escano Sammy Escano

    This is absolutely wonderful, you must be an amazing father. Beautiful!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001684683148 Amber Arias

    This was beautiful. I feel the same thing, often. Your family is very lucky to have someone that appreciates them and the time given to them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/EliJuicyJones Eli Jones

    Wise move. I just buried my Father, Jerry Jones, last Thursday, and this is about all I’ve been thinking about since then.

  • http://www.facebook.com/heather.favro.binuya Heather Favro Binuya

    Oh, this was amazing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1465800134 Paige Raleigh Minka

    beautiful perspective on life.. thanks for the sharing your thoughts!

  • http://www.facebook.com/cassie.richards2 Cassandra Richards

    Sometimes I worry so much about something ending, that I forget to enjoy it. This is a really good idea.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=528004179 Jane Murphy

    This is a wonderful article. I’ve been having many more thoughts like this since I became a mum.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mel.campanaro Mel Campanaro

    I’ve never been able to actually describe this. This was amazing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/paisano Doriano Paisano Carta

    beautiful. welcome to the club. I am part of that weird time-travelors club where members can transport themselves to the future in order to appreciate the present as the past. It sounds convoluted and strange but only because it is. However, it truly is a beautiful gift…as Shane aptly described…of time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lyndsay.j.becker Lyndsay Jenness Becker

    I feel like that song “strumming my pain with his fingers”. This is exactly how I feel, every day. There are plenty of things in my life that aren’t perfect, but I know I will always consider this the best time of my life. I love the idea of being my future self looking back, never thought of it that way.

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