Relativity and the yardsticks of time | VailDaily.com
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Relativity and the yardsticks of time

Alex Miller

Nothing is more frustrating than time in the human experience. You can’t change it, speed it up, slow it down or go back and do it over. How we experience time and the whole process of aging is something for which family provides an excellent framework. After all, no one knows better than a mom or a dad about each second of the lives we care for, from the first breath, first steps and words to the goodbyes as kids go off to college, careers or an 8-10 year stretch in the Big House.Interestingly enough, though, it’s other people’s kids (OPKs) who often serve as the best yardstick for the passage of time. Under the watchful gaze of parents, kids grow at a predictable pace. Granted, it can seem meteoric at times, but like watched kettles, we have to step back and really think about where Junior was six months ago for true perspective.OPK’s, on the other hand, grow in quantum leaps. And here I’m talking about OPKs who live elsewhere; the children of old friends who live in another state who visit every couple of years – or relatives we see only at weddings, funerals and the like. There’s almost nothing that makes me feel so acutely the passing of time than being in the presence of a person who didn’t exist when I best knew his mom or dad, and who is now walking, talking, barfing, opining or burning up the Playstation.Where, we wonder, did the time go? And there’s our buddy, the last image of whom was smiling tipsily at the wedding, mopping up blech and running for more diapers. Yes, kids happen, then they grow and the lives of others continue apace with our own. Still, it’s amazing – and comforting, in a way – to recognize that all our old acquaintances are doing as much hand-wringing and racing around as we are.As a parent, I’m always fascinated by how differently my wife and I experience time and age from our kids. The 4-year-old turned 5 this week, and repeatedly exclaimed that this was, in fact, “the best birthday ever!” on “the best day ever” all taking place within the framework of “the best family ever!” And while Andy trumpets the miracle of five trips around the sun and I contemplate the fact that I have T-shirts older than him, Jen and I fruitlessly wish we could stop further birthdays for ourselves (without the dying part, of course).For our three middle kids, summer shot by in a nanosecond, while a trip to Denver can take an eternity for the 5-year-old. When I think back to that hot August day in 2001 when Andy was born, I can’t decide whether it seems like just yesterday or a million years ago. In many ways, it seems he’s always been here; and it seems like that for all of our kids. When I think back to the days before I was anyone’s dad, it seems like a parallel life of some sort, lived by another version of myself who’s long gone.I’ve met people who moon over the “old days,” lamenting the perceived loss of freedom and fun that becoming a parent brings. I also know people who’ve chosen not to have kids or spouses, who think themselves better off for it. Statistically, they’ll die sooner, but at least things will have stayed where they put them.I don’t worry too much about the old days anymore. More interesting to me by far is the present and what lies ahead. Realistically, I could become a grandfather before I’m 45, although I’m hoping for another decade to think about it. When it comes, though, that special variety of OPK is going to be the thing that makes time slow down once again.Bring it on ….Alex Miller can be reached at 748-2931, or amiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado


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