Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Present Thief

Sometimes, when I sit late at night watching a fire, everything makes sense. Sometimes, the opposite is true and it all seems impossibly, well, difficult. Last night nothing made sense. I got to thinking about something Nick said Christmas evening - something I found, well, odd.

He said he was scared. I asked him if he meant he was sad, assuming he was suffering that post holiday sadness that can hit anyone - that hit me last night - but he said that wasn't it. He said he was afraid the stuff he got was going to be stolen by a thief, a present thief I guess, the very worst kind. He said he was afraid that everything would be gone in the morning.  It is hard to respond to that. I tried to laugh it off, maybe make a joke about it, tell him that it was very, very unlikely that a present thief would sneak in and steal gifts.

A "present thief," huh? Yeah, I lied to him, there is such a thing, isn't there? My present seems to be always being thieved. And do you know what, I think that's precisely what he was worried about. He knew he was happy, Christmas had been very good, 'perfect' Zack had even said, and I think Nick didn't want that feeling to be stolen from him. I am happy right now, please, don't take it away from me ... You know, don't we all feel that way sometimes? Lord, I know I do. It's that feeling I get constantly when I am thinking about things, dreaming, hoping, trying desperately to hold onto a thought, a moment. When you wish more than anything that you could just stay right where you are, when you are, that moment you try to stave off the present thief.

As many of you know I struggle - to put it gently - with time Time (an archnemisis should be capitalized, don't you think).  This thing, evil as it so often is to me, is my present thief.  The other night, the night I sat thinking sadly about Nick and Christmas, Time was in the room, egging me on, playing with my mind.  I think the old man's greatest weapon is making you think there is plenty of him to go around.  There isn't.  I am old now, not as old as some, but older than the majority of the people I would call my peers - the parents of the kids my boys know, the men I know at church, even my dear wife, Marci, is not as old as I - and Time knifes me at every opportunity it seems.

I have been over this and over this and over this in my head, but, in all honesty, I never considered time and the impact it would have on me as a younger man.  I never, ever considered it and, well, that's good.  So much comes from not taking on Time, ignoring him, pushing him away with a simple laugh and never acknowledging the power he has over you.

I absolutely marvel at the stuff I have found time to do in my life: the movies I've seen, good and bad and naughty and nice; the books I've read, Shakespeare to O'Neill to Irving to Doyle, a thousand useless sci-fi novels as a kid, and so many textbooks and plays and collections of poetry; I have marveled at uncounted (and I wish I had) sunsets, moonrises, sunrises and moonsets, seen dozens of meteor showers; I have had deep, meaningful, long conversations with thousands, I'd guess, of friends and I once found the time, it would seem, to estimate that I have probably served a quarter of a million people food, beverage and bullshit in my long restaurant career; I have learned the words to 'American Pie' and its chords, I've memorized poems by Frost and Whitman and Williams and Homer, I've labored over music's fingerings and rhythms, theory, and past, so much music...

Ironically - or self-servingly - I really don't have time to continue this list of the things I have found the time to do.  Here's the thing, I have found the hours to do so many things and I have found the time to consider those things.  I have stood along the edge of a forest, thinking about the woods, a poem, a person, a fence.  I have imagined the whole of Hamlet, looking into a fire.  I've heard songs I hadn't yet written in the wind and thunder, and listened to them over and over.  I've planned nearly every conversation I've ever had, important or not, in my head before time just so I could, maybe, make it right.  I've wept at death on a long cross-continental drive, all the way, and, I have spent endless, joyous nights in the quiet of bed wondering at the wonder that is love.  I've found so many different perspectives of the same cityscape, watching the cabs and cars through grimy urban windows and done the same out a picture window in the country watching squirrels and corn.

I have dreamed oceans.  I have hoped eternities.  I have prayed tomes.  I have loved unfathomably.

How is this possible?  I sit here, in the cold, cluttered basement, staring off at the stairway to the floor above and I am flooded with the memories that two simple paragraphs wash me in.  I want to cry and laugh and party and scream and dance and sing and... and, here's the kicker, it happened in an instant, maybe two.  All this in mere seconds of time as measured on the old analog clock that ticks above my desk.

Yes, the enemy of Time is God.  More accurately, maybe, is that the antidote to creeping, consuming chronos - whom I call Time - is Kairos.  God's time.

I am no ancient Greek philosopher - a merely play one on television - and I am unarmed in a battle of wits with even the most sophomoric of philosophers but, I've given this some thought and here's what I think.  Kairos is the time given to us and Chronos is the time taken away.

I just glanced up at clock, as I so often do, and thought:  "Hey, I could use a little of God's time here, before the boys get restless and Marci goes to do something and lunch must be considered and ... yes, please God, just a little of Your time?"

Well, that didn't work.  In fact, writing that sentence took about ten minutes for some reason.

And... I have to go do stuff.

I'm back but, I think I should finish up.  It's funny, I the clock moved forward an hour, but, I really don't care about that right now.  Now is the present, and no stupid "present thief" is going to take it away from me.

I do have a couple of things I'd like to show you, if, that is, you have the time.  You see, they're time-sensitive, if you will, and, well, it goes deeper than that.  We suspect this is the last year the boys will believe - if you get my drift - the last time they may ever do this and, I really find "lasts" very difficult, very sad.  A part of me feels like Time, the bad guy, has stolen this from me, from us, from them.  But, my dear friends, Kairos gave it all to me in the first place:

I began this post a couple of days ago, sitting in front of a fire, thinking about a boy and a silly villain I made up called "The Present Thief."  I end it now with he sudden realization that this will be my last post of the year.  And it's about time.  That's seems appropriate.  And I didn't even know it...

I loathe New Year's resolutions.  I really, really do.  I actually loathe the whole New Year's Eve thing but, you spend thirty years of working in a restaurant every, every  NYE and you'd understand why.

Listen, I am never going to stop battling with time and, honestly, I will probably write about it again, but I hereby resolve to not take it so seriously, and to understand that it will happen in God's good time.

From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."

Nick:  I shall never go to any zoo in China.

I love the word 'shall'...

Thanks for stopping by today, I shall try to post more frequently in the coming months.  My readership is waning and that gets discouraging sometimes, but, then I remember that I may never understand why I do this, why it matters so to me.  It all seems so silly and yet, here I am.

Merry New Year!

(I am advocating a simple word shift for future winter holidays, let's all say "Happy Christmas" because at its core is joy and "Merry New Year," because 'merry' has a jubilant connotation, think parties.  Thank you, carry on...)


  1. Indeed, time is a thief to all of us. But it is the ephemeral nature of life that makes it so valuable. It motivates us all to cherish each and every moment we share with our loved ones

  2. Bill, this is your best. You are so able to say what most can onl, sort of, think. WE are so proud.

  3. My goodness it's been years since I've heard the word "kairos." All I can say is: you are a philosopher. A damned good one.

  4. Thanks for making me think so deeply on this Bill, this was a good use of my time.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Beau, that's a real fine compliment because I *know* how busy you are right now. Peace to you and your lovely family. Beau blogs at http://www.lunchboxdad.com/ and it is a really great site, beautiful and heartfelt.

  5. What we lose to Chronos, we gain from Mnemosyne--as proven by how much your memories could bring back to you in only an instant.

    You're a poet and a philosopher, Bill; it is always a pleasure to read your work.

  6. Bill, this was a wonderful post. I got lost in thinking of all the things you've seen and read and then got lost in thinking of all the things I've seen and read. You know, it was a good use of my "time" to reminisce on the beauty of life. You're a damned good writer and I enjoy spending my time on your site. Keep it up, whenever you feel like it.

    Merry New Year!