A Tenuous Time
There will never be another day exactly like this one.
We went out to the botanical gardens the day before yesterday. I saw how my kids enjoyed the trail, the lush vegetation, and feeding the fish. I realized one more time that this time will not come again. They will be older tomorrow and the next day, the next week, the next month, the next time we go to the gardens. With each passing day, I see my family maturing, developing autonomy, empathy, and critical thinking. In the last few days, I’ve seen them work through dependence on computers for entertainment and found something else to do.
Yesterday afternoon, instead of asking me for my phone so that they could watch videos, my kids found my tools and proceeded to take apart a pair of makeshift monitor stands I had made each with 3 pieces of wood and 4 screws. The elder daughter took it apart and put it back together again. I was blown away. I was shocked that they were even interested in this exercise in the first place, and happy that she had taken the challenge of putting it back together again and completed it.
But as with all other things I have experienced as a father, I knew that this time would not come again. This isn’t to say that there won’t be other happy times to enjoy. It’s just that they would never be that age doing that same thing again.
Every morning I see the pictures I’ve taken of my kids over the years on my TV. I have them stored in Google Drive, shared over my Chromecast attached to the TV. Every morning I sit on my couch and write while pictures of my past with the kids float by. I recall the good times and the bad times. I recall how cute they were, how they learned to walk, to talk, to dance, and to pose before the camera. They are not completely aware of how much I’ve got stored. And every once in a while they get ahold of my phone to use the camera to take selfies. I have many treasures to see in my collection, and each picture reminds me of a time that will not come again.
I have fond memories of helping each of them to fall asleep. I sang to them, I talked to them, I rocked them, I looked at them, I kept them warm and I let them drool on my shoulder. I went on walks with them as toddlers and kindergarteners. I was a comedian for them. I made up funny stories for them at bedtime. I consoled them when they got a booboo while playing. I demonstrated what a father looks like.
I have evolved from serial room renter of a single man to a married man living in an apartment, then to owning a small home, then a bigger one, then building out the basement, then installing the major and minor conveniences in life. A water filter, a water softener, refrigerator, washer and dryer, a ping pong table, and a host of electronics. And the furniture. My wife loves furniture. I look back on the time that I’ve been growing and I know that time won’t come again.
I look back on the last few years I’ve spent working for one of the largest IT companies in the world. I look back and see how I’ve grown. I see now how I evolved from being hopelessly and utterly confused about my job and becoming a subject matter expert in the products that I support. I honed my skills in customer service, empathy, and support. The skills I learned in parenting supplanted my customer service skills, too.
I look at what we have on this planet with liquid water, the air we can breathe, and with food growing everywhere for everything. Life is pervasive. We are incredibly lucky to be here. Whatever we have now, this is a time that won’t come again. The ecosystem we have won’t last forever. The earth is slowly falling towards the sun. The sun will eventually grow bigger and bigger as it runs out of hydrogen fuel and starts to fuse heavier elements. The color of the sun will change. Then the environment on earth will change in response.
I remember how I used to think about my life. I was teased as a kid and it seemed like it would last forever. I lived with a father that I could not understand because he did not understand himself. That seemed like forever. As a young man, it seemed like I would never find a woman to marry. It seemed like I would never find relief from my suffering. Even in middle age, it seemed like some persistent problems would not go away.
Forever is a very long time. Longer than we can hope to imagine. We don’t even know what forever is, but we use the word as if we know it. I read an article the other day that said that the last supernova would go off in 10¹¹⁰⁰ years. That is an incredibly long time. It’s not forever, but to us, it might as well be. Even that state of the universe is temporary.
The ongoing pandemic probably feels like forever to many people. The lockdowns, the sick, the dying, the political angling, and volleying. For the unemployed, being stuck at home and wondering when the next dollar will come, that feels like an eternity. For the kids who have no one to play with because of the lockdown, that’s an eternity.
From what I’ve read of the pandemic and past pandemics, this is a temporary state. This too shall pass. Our immune systems will evolve. So will the virus. It’s the ladder vs the wall. Hyena vs the rabbit. We are in a state of constant evolution, and nothing is forever. Everything that is permanent is dead, anyway. The pandemic will pass.
It’s important to remember every so often, that the time we have now will not come again. The exact circumstances of today will not be repeated. Look at any picture from your life and know that it will never be the same again. Treasure these moments for they won’t come again, and let them be enough for today.