Because Time Passes

Guest post by Allison 
For the past few weeks, as the snow fell relentlessly in our corner of New Jersey, I’ve been hosting a private pity party, wondering what I am supposed to do with all the hours on my hands. My life has felt suspended in time. It’s not that I’m without purpose. I teach one class a week at a community college, and I am prepping to take a professional exam to launch a full-time career teaching English. I am involved in coordinating our parish youth group and am singing in the choir.  But my husband works very full days and is coaching rec basketball; our sons keep busy with school, sports, and music. Their own busyness has given me plenty of time to brood.

Yesterday afternoon, I had a conversation with our eldest son that shook me out of my sulking. Our eighth grader returned home from school and told me with a smile:  (1) he has been recruited for the freshman football team and (2) he’d like to take a certain girl to the eighth-grade dance and (3) he’d like to save up for an electric bass guitar.

I had become accustomed to thinking of our eldest as a boy who shunned sports, played upright bass in a chamber orchestra, and was content to observe life from the comfort of his thoughts and books. Now, a better description would be: my son is a self-assured  young man. Here was a remarkable reminder that time passes.

Half a lifetime ago, I mourned the passage of time. Now, thanks to my faith, I treasure every moment. I see God revealing Himself through just about everything, including the unfolding of our son’s life.

For some reason, our son’s announcements dislodged a memory of myself as a depressed and maudlin twenty-something. In the years immediately following college, I moved a lot for my newspaper reporting career. Whenever I would pack up for yet another career move, I would rifle through boxes of old photos and letters, mulling what to keep and what to toss. My mind would fixate on the notion that  time never stands still and that what happens today will be a memory tomorrow, and forgotten in 10 or 100 years. I’d weep over this.

When I was 25, I landed my first job after graduate school as a reporter at a suburban Boston newspaper. I remember a day off walking alone, exploring my Dorchester neighborhood. I walked past a cemetery. I remember thinking: if I were to die today, say, get hit by a car, where would I be buried? Who would care that I had lived? Who would mourn my passing? Who will even know of my existence in 10 or 20 years? Who, in 100 years, will even remember anyone who is alive now? (Did I mention the day was gray? )

I’ve believed in God my whole life. And if you’d asked me during that walk where my death would take me, I would have told you straight to heaven. But God then for me was a distant figure, someone who set the Universe into motion and then sat back, way back, observing our transient lives, disinterested in their vagaries. I would need to wait until I died to encounter God, I thought. 

Since that bleak walk through Dorchester, I met and married my true love and gave birth to two glorious sons. My husband and I have settled into the same town for the past 15 years. Through time, we have grown more orthodox in our beliefs about God, closer to our Catholic faith and, more consistent  in our  practice of it.

Once, I feared time. In and through the gift of time, however, I now find comfort in understanding God exists both in and beyond time.

My faith in God, which answers my questions about the meaning of my own existence, did not settle into me on a certain day and time. I didn’t have an altar call or fall off a horse. But now I am able to see the hand of God in the life of the son who soon will have to look down to look me in the eye.

  • Anonymous

    Beautiful! This writer is fantastic. Sue

  • Frank

    Allison: Thanks for your post. For the last several days my wife and I have been helping our oldest son plan his class schedule for his freshman year in highschool this coming fall. Time is sliding away on greased rails!

  • Webster Bull

    Faith changes everything, doesn't it? The past two years of my life, my first in the Catholic Church, have been a bigger revolution (for the good) than I ever could have imagined. Thanks for reminding me of this, Allison. Very nice.

  • Allison Salerno

    @Frank and Webster: You two are an inspiration. Sometimes, we cradle Catholics can be real slackers. Thanks for (unwittingly) kicking us in the seat of our pants; and inspiring me to deeper spirituality.

  • newguy40

    Yes. I do understand and emphathize.I have two wonderful teen boys 14 and 17. I have had similar moments where the temptation is to live too much in the past. Remembering them as infants and toddlers and those bright young days. Shockingly, out children turn in to real people with their own thoughts, ideas and lives that sooner rather than later diverge from ours.Pray for acceptance and understanding.

  • Allison Salerno

    @newguy40I find the more I have faith in God, the more I have faith that our young sons are "turning out" exactly as God intended. Some days are better than others but when I view my children in this light, watching them grow up is exciting.

  • Anneg

    Wonderful post, Allison. One I can relate to. My son now has children of his own which is one of the great joys of seeing time go by. Grandchildren. May I suggest y'all start praying for your own now? AnneG in NC

  • Anonymous

    (Andy) Seriously get him the electric bass. I played one briefly at Notre Dame with the other guitarists from the graduate student mass (the ones that made me sit on the floor). It's a lot like classical guitar, actually. Or maybe it just seems that way to me because I'm not very good at either…

  • Elaine

    Lovely post. I think the moments where we are *unsure* of God and of the purpose of our life or of who would bury us, etc. are as important as those moments when it seems clear.I think the danger, actually, lies in thinking we have it all neatly figured out and that we *know*. I always question people who claim it's easy.Faith, in my view, is never easy. And it's these moments that cause us to reflect on where we've been and how we've changed that ultimately show us that maybe, just maybe, the goddess does indeed care for us all.:) Elaine

  • Allison Salerno

    @Elaine: Thanks for responding. Your reference to "goddess" leads me to another thought. I do say "God our Father," but I never have thought of God as exclusively a male entity. Perhaps God is both male and female? Faith is indeed a journey. I agree the moment we feel we have it all figured out into a nice little package is the moment we kind of have lost it. Mother Teresa had great periods of doubt. @Andy: Thanks for your perspective on guitars!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much Allison–this is beautiful. You are an amazing writer, and your observations about children always touch me. I was interested in your thoughts during the walk through the cemetery, and it reminded me of a book I found powerful: The Lost, by Daniel Mendelsohn. It is about the holocaust, so is not about Christian or Catholic… See More relations with God. But, it asks a similar question you were asking and connects to history (a love of mine). What is the meaning of our existance if it is not recorded? He explores meaning through family, community, and perspective of the people around us. Again, this book is not on your topic, but you might really enjoy the thought-process he goes through.Kate

  • Allison Salerno

    @Kate: Thanks for reading this guest blog. I myself read widely and I certainly will add this book to my list. I think it's part of the human condition to ask questions such as these…