Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Everything is relative

My eldest child is a question asker, as in he is constantly asking questions of the universe from the time he wakes up until he goes to bed at night. If I had to guess, I'd say that he probably is even asking them in his dreams. 

One of questions he asked me recently had to do with the relativity of time, about why time seems slower when you are younger, about why he's already noticed that it is speeding up for him.

He's always been one to savor the place he was at, this kid. Occasionally, he's looked forward to something out there looming in the future for him, but far more often he's prone to hanging on to the place he's at for dear life.

We mused about why time seems to march us forward at different speeds. Personally, I think it's just a matter of mathematics. When you are four years old, it seems like an eternity until your next birthday, but by the time you're my age, the years fly by (and you start to genuinely forget how old you are). My personal theory is that a year takes so long when you're young because at four years old, a year is a quarter of your entire lifetime. By extension, a year takes up far less of your life's total by the time you're approaching 40. It's just a smaller portion of the memory pie.

As he asked me this question, from the front seat of the car, wearing a shirt that used to belong to his grandfather. My father.

The two of them,
Thanksgiving 2001
The one who has only been gone just over four years now.

In that stretch of time, this son of mine has turned from a little boy to a young man. He was in elementary school back then, obsessed with LEGOs and creating his own cartoon characters. His hair was almost always buzzed short and I was still taller than him. He wanted to be a master builder back then.

Now, that little boy isn't little anymore. He towers over me. He's starting high school here in a couple of months. Weeks really, if we're being honest. He's obsessed with new things these days, including the songs that my father used to play in the garage while he worked. His hair, much longer, swept to the side, part of the package of uniqueness he's developed.

He's big enough to wear shirts that used to belong to my dad now, though this phase likely won't last very long at the rate he is growing. In all likelihood, the shirts will grow smaller and smaller until they are put aside, the reminders of another man who came before him.

It's strange to see him wearing them, especially when I think about how little he was when my father was still here.

He was 9 when my Dad died. He'll be 14 by week's end.

It seems like it can't have been that long since my father died, but these shirts, they remind me of just how much time has passed. I can't just trust my perception of time, it moves faster than I think it is moving, faster than I believe it should.

I think my father would be proud of this boy he once knew, this young man who sits beside me today. I think he'd even be a little bit humbled that he made such a profound impact on him. This boy who lived in a world where his grandfather needed to be cared for by others, who was lucky enough to have a male nurse in the ICU when he most needed one...he wants to work there someday too.

When his grandfather told him all those years ago that the world needed more men to work in those jobs, this boy who was truly just a little boy then...he listened.

He had orientation at the hospital today, in fact. He asked a few months ago if he could start volunteering.

Of course I said yes.

His grandfather, wherever he is, is probably pretty proud today.

I know that the next four years will pass faster than the last four have, and I know that at the end of those four years, my son will be graduating from high school. I know that I'll blink and it will be here, no matter what I might do to try and hit the pause button to slow time down just a little bit.

He already sees time speeding up, this boy of mine. He knows.

He knows that everything is relative.

And his grandfather, of all people, helped teach him that.

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