Tuesday, June 18, 2013

TIME AND TIME AGAIN

There is a strange paradox in life that seems to effect everyone.  I have begun to notice it a few years ago, but this year it has really made itself apparent to me.  Here is the paradox.  As we grow older and age, we slow down.  Our thinking slows down, our walking slows down, forget about running at all, our speech slows down, it seems that everything about us slows to a crawl.  Time, however, speeds up and we find ourselves not being able to keep up with things around us from day to day.  There comes a point where one day is faster than the day before and the next day will be faster yet.  Time starts to race forward and our slow minds and bodies are left behind leaving us pretty much out of the loop of keeping up with those younger than us leaving us feeling like we are stuck in a mud bog.

That is where I think I find myself at this point in my life.  Stuck in a mud bog.  It wasn't always this way.  There was a time when nothing could slow me down.  Every day it would seem like I would learn something new.  Just observing life around me brought many lessons that I would use up to and including today.  All my heroes use to be older than me.  There wasn't a baseball player on the field that was younger and now even the managers are getting to the point of being about the same age that I am.

I could rode a bike a few times for over 120 miles when I was not quite of age to vote.  I remember taking my driver's test and failing the first time because I ran a stop sign.  It would be two weeks before I could take the test again.  TWO WEEKS!!  It was the longest two weeks in my life at the time.  Now the expiration date on my license seems to come up faster than those two weeks went by waiting to get my first one.

When I was really little, Christmas would come once a year and it was a long year.  When the J.C. Penney Wishbook arrived in the mail, it seemed like we had forever to browse through it everyday making our wishes for when Christmas finally did arrive.  Turns out that when the Wishbook arrives at my house these days, it feels like about a week or so passes before I throw it into the recycle bin. (yes, it come as a surprise to some of you who know me but I DO recycle).

Summers use to be long, seemingly lasting forever with those warm humid Missouri days just lazily passing by.  A weekend with my grandparents would be far from lazy days but still pretty easy going, and waiting for grandma to finish fixing supper seemed like it took all day.

Even as I grew into my adult years things seemed to pass at a pretty comfortable pace.  I could work all day then go play a few hours of basketball or run up to the ball fields and watch the kids play baseball for a few hours.  Songs that I remember hearing for the first time are now forty or fifty years old.  This week marks the 40th anniversary of the release of The Allman Brothers "Brothers and Sisters" album that brought us Jessica and Ramblin Man.  I remember hearing the first sounds off that album for the first time.  I remember going to see them on the tour that promoted that album.  Now it is forty years old.  Never tire of listening to it, but the thought that it has been forty years since I bought that album is almost inconceivable.

As I entered into the age of computers and the new technology, I found I had plenty of time to keep up on all the new things that were coming out.  I could run a computer like an expert and if something went wrong I could always fix the computer with my brain and the time I seemed to have plenty of.  One of my motto's was "you can't break a computer, it can always be fixed."  I remember telling my older sister those words several dozen times.  Now she is the one telling me that computers can't be broke.  Somehow she has managed to stay on top of the tide of technology while I have begun to drown in it.

Times have changed as I have grown older.  I find that all those times my grandfather sat in his chair with his pipe between his teeth looking off into space was thinking time so that he would come up with just the right words he wanted to say.  I have also found out that the time when he was thinking, he was trying to slow time down to give him more time to think.  I know this to be true because that is what I do.  I just want time to stop it's constant ticking.

This year has gone by especially fast.  There are many reasons for it I suppose.  Easter came extremely early in the year which made the year start off fast.  But it wasn't just Easter.  I have begun observing again and time does not stop no matter how much you want it to.  Over the last year I have noticed my parents aging quickly and I look back and it seems like just a year or so ago when my grandparents died when in reality it has been close to two decades since I felt that pain.  I guess the pain of losing them has stayed with me making it always seem like they were just here.  A friend of Mine and Barb's is extremely sick and time seems to be going by so fast as she battles her disease.  I want to stop time for her.  I want it to stop for the long term.

I am old.  I think back to my grade school years when my third grade teacher had us figure out how old we would be in the year 2000.  I calculated that I would be forty four when we switched centuries.  Forty four.  It seemed so very far off.  Now it is thirteen years past that magical date and I am fifty six.  Old.

I have seen life come and go to a lot of my family members that I once thought would be around forever.  There was a time when I could not imagine any of them not being here, but now they are gone.  I watched one of my best friends lose his daughter to a heart condition when she was only fourteen.

Fourteen was "old" for Alesia.  Old is different for everybody.  The thing is that the closer you get to leaving this life, the older you get, no matter what your age is now.  The older we get, the slower we get, the more we want time to slow down.  We want more time.  There is never enough time and we want more.  It doesn't work that way though.  Time moving faster is but an illusion.  Time is a constant, but life is not.  The things that we experience in life are not constants.  Everything is constantly changing and when things change, it is a marker that time is going by us, and it does.

Time doesn't stop.  Time doesn't slow down.  Time keeps marching on around us.  The best we can do is to try to keep up.


Monday, June 10, 2013

RED BANDANAS

I am not a fancy dresser.  My wardrobe is pretty simple consisting mainly of blue jeans, some light weight oxford button downs and t-shirts mostly of which say either "MIZZOU" on them or "BAMA".  Caps are a big part of my wardrobe as well and like the t-shirts, you will almost always find me sporting a Mizzou or Bama ball cap.  It is a simple wardrobe and one that fits me well.  I like things simple.

Probably the most important part of my wardrobe to me are four red bandanas.  Like the rest of my style, they are simple.  Each of them is a simple red square of cloth with a fancy design printed on them.  Anytime you see me I am almost certain to have one of these bandanas in my left rear pocket of the blue jeans I will probably be wearing most of the time.

These bandanas belonged to my grandfather, Oscar Hill.  Like me, grandpa was not much of a fancy dresser except for on Sundays when he would go to church or special occasions.  To be honest, I am not much of a fancy dresser even on Sundays, usually wearing the same outfit of blue jeans and a button down shirt even to church.  To grandpa it was important to dress nice for church.  It is the way he was raised.  You go to church and you dress to the best of your ability to show reverence and respect.  When he did dress up, he looked sharp.  He was the kind of man that could wear a tuxedo or blue jean overalls and look just as comfortable in either one.  He wore clothes with confidence and when he would come home from the rail yard, those he looked like he was made to wear overalls he looked so natural in them.  On the other hand when he would put on a suit on Sunday mornings you got the same feel.  He looked like a man that was made to wear a suit.

He was a man who always knew that he would need something to wipe his hands with or blow his nose during some portion of the day and so a major part of his wardrobe were made for that purpose.  I don't think anyone really knew how many of these implements he had except for maybe his wife.  When dressed nice and sharp, you could always count on seeing a classy looking white handkerchief either in his suit pocket or in his pants pocket.  He had plenty of these nice ones, but in pure number, the size of his white handkerchiefs paled in comparison to his number of red and blue bandanas.  I am probably exaggerating a little bit but it seemed like he had bandanas in to the three digit range.  After his passing,  one of the constants that his grandchildren wanted as a reminder of him were bandanas, and I think all of us got at least one.  Well, I am not sure of his grand daughters received one but the grand sons did.  These bandanas were a part of the everyday grandpa.  He always seemed to have one at the ready.

Grandpa had many different colors of bandanas, but the vast majority of them were either bright red, or dark blue.  I can't say that I saw him carry a red bandana more often then he did blue or the other way around.  He seemed to pretty well even it out as to which color of bandana he would have on his person.  Grandma made sure he had a clean bandana every day when he took off to the rail yard to go to work.  This has got to be the reason why the man owned so many.  He may have gotten a lot of his collection as Father's Day gifts or at Christmas time or his birthday.  I really couldn't tell you for sure. While his bandana was clean everyday, I don't recall seeing a bandana that seemed "new".  With grandma around taking care of him though, you would be hard pressed to be able to tell the difference between a new bandana and an old one.  These bandanas were washed, ironed and neatly folded sitting in his dresser drawer waiting their time to be used.

I have four of his bandanas, all of them red in color.  To me I think grandpa looked better with a red bandana then a blue one.  The blue ones tended to merge in with color of his overalls and didn't bring attention to themselves while the bright red ones stood out from his clothing and made a statement about grandpa.  In my mind I think the brightness of these red bandana are why I always think of him carrying a red one instead of a blue one.

A little while after grandpa died, I got a few of my things that I had been given.  I decided to make a shadow box display consisting of the essence of grandpa.  It was my way of remembering him the way that he was to me.  In this shadow box I put a picture of grandpa standing tall and confident.  He is wearing jeans and a denim shirt.  His hands are firmly on his hips and he looks as handsome as I remember him.  In his mouth is one of his many many pipes that he use to smoke his Grainger tobacco.  Awful smelling stuff but he seemed to enjoy it.  Although you can't see it, I am almost positive that in his back pocket was a red bandana.  Along with the picture, the shadow box is home to a Frisco time table from August of 1951, five years before I was born. There is one of grandpa's short stem pipes with a chip knocked out of the edge of the bowl from pounding it on his big glass ashtray to clean it out.  Up in the corner sits the pin that the Frisco gave him marking twenty five years of service.  And, finally, there is an ironed folded red bandana.  These are things that I can look at and see the essence of grandpa.  Each of these items bring to my mind different memories of the old man.

I love my bandanas that were handed down to me from from my grandfather.  I cherish them.  Every day when I get dressed, one of the red bandanas is placed in my back pocket of my jeans.  I carry one with me wherever I go and I use them much the same way grandpa used them.

The bandanas are getting old and are starting to wear thin but still there is one with me everyday.  I feel that by having one of those red bandanas with me that in a way grandpa is with me.  I carry him with me wherever I go and each time I pull it out of my pocket and use it or just hold it, I remember my grandpa who I loved so very much.

I hope that when my time is up and I am buried, that One of the bandanas will go with me.  I know you can't take anything with you when you go, but it just feels comforting knowing that a part of grandpa will be with me as I leave this world.