Time Machine

If you had a time machine, where would you go? Or should I say “when” would you go? People are fascinated by the concept of manipulating time. It’s a common theme in pop culture, splattered throughout literature and the movies. From a Wrinkle in Time to “Back to the Future” – who hasn’t thought about the idea that time is linear? 

This week’s WordPress writing challenge is about this very concept. If you had a time machine, what would you do with it? Personally the biggest temptation would be going back in time to “fix” moments of regret. Hindsight is always twenty-twenty – who doesn’t think, “If I had to do it all over again, I’d do X, Y and Z differently?” But that’s a dangerous road to take.

I think about the idea that, had I waited for one more month before trying to conceive Corey, I might not have a heart child. I might not have had to live through the hell that is the early life of a child with tricuspid atresia. He wouldn’t have been forced to suffer through it either. Maybe my first child would have been healthy. That’s a tempting thought, if I am honest. The child would not have been Corey, though – he or she would have been a different person entirely.

And of course I love Corey with all of me. I can’t imagine a life that doesn’t include him. Getting to know him, getting to know myself through him, has been a privilege. No matter how much time I have with him, I know it is a gift. And at my core, I believe that I am meant to be Corey’s mother – it’s my path to walk in life. In which case perhaps the time machine wouldn’t make any difference.

There’s also the idea that, should you alter one regrettable part of your past, you will also inevitably alter many more aspects of your present and your future. If there was no Corey, there would be no Mason either. Mason was conceived at a time that worked between Corey’s surgeries. No heart child, no surgical timeline, and suddenly there is no Mason. He (or she) is someone else entirely. Or perhaps there would be no second child at all.

Think about all the hundreds of important decisions you’ve made in your life. All of them led, in one way or another, to where you are right now. Right this moment. Alter any of them, and perhaps you are in a completely different place, married to a different person, living in a different state or country, doing a different job with a different boss. Instead of Grace the cat you’ve got Fido the dog, because your new spouse in this different reality is allergic to cats.

It’s wild to contemplate. So I think I know exactly what I’m going to do with my time machine. I’m going to borrow some TNT from my son’s Minecraft game and blow it to smithereens. Then I’m going to cook dinner for this family that I love in this house that I love in this town that I love. 

What do age and time really mean?

People often say that age is just a number. Anybody facing a midlife crisis probably thinks those people can go suck an egg. But perhaps it’s just another way to say “I am content with my life right now.” It’s blase, laissez faire, devil-may-care to contend that the number of years you have lived on this earth is irrelevant. It’s human nature to freak out a little when you reach a certain age. Though what that “certain age” is varies wildly from person to person. The concept of time has different meaning for each of us.

When I turned 25, I panicked a little. I thought, “I’m half way to 50, and my life is not what I thought it would be.” I was single with no boyfriend and no prospects, no children, no master’s degree, living with a friend and her four-year-old son. I was not happy. I did have a college degree and a good job, however, so I got over myself and decided to figure out what changes I could reasonably make. There was a lot of whining and several pints of Ben & Jerry’s involved in that getting over myself process, but I managed.

Age 30 was a blur. I got married the very month before I turned 30, and with the wedding, honeymoon, and then discovering I was pregnant the very first month of my marriage, I barely even noticed the changing of a decade. Unlike at age 25, at 30 I was happy with the state of my life. I’d jumped from the “go suck an egg!” camp over to the “meh, age is just a number” club. I was in good health, and I had no real worries. I felt indestructible, like nothing bad could happen to me – the way a person feels before tragedy has touched their life. 

But then my life went to hell in a day. October 15, 2004. The day my OB/GYN said, “There’s something wrong with your baby’s heart.” Time after that had completely different meaning. The days between my baby’s initial diagnosis with a congenital heart defect and the confirmation that he had a chance at survival were the longest of my life. They seemed to stretch on endlessly, like the tunnel in “Poltergeist” that elongated right before JoBeth William’s eyes as she’s trying to reach her child. It seemed impossible that she would ever reach the end of that tunnel and get to her baby. 

Time after those initial days changed in meaning as well. The first year of my son’s life was an eternity while I was living it. Heart failure, medications, surgeries, and the ever-present fear. But looking back on it now, it seems like a blur. Just a blip on the radar. I feel the same way about my second son’s first year. It was a completely different experience because he is healthy, but sleep deprivation is torture even if there isn’t an underlying note of fear. And so the first year felt long while I was living it, but now that he is seven years old, the baby days seem like a brief moment.

Which brings me to another age-related cliche that people like to throw at me mostly when my boys are acting like crazy brainless beasts out in public (e.g. the bowling alley birthday party). You know what it is. “They grow up so fast!” This phrase forces me to nail a smile on my face and remind myself that it is not okay to slap people in public. In private, feel free to slap away. If you’ve invited one of these people into your house, however, maybe you should slap yourself. But I digress. In any case, like most cliches, if I am honest with myself I feel the truth in this statement. My children are seven and nine now, and I do feel as if they are growing up too fast.

Because (wait for it) life is short! That’s right. I said it. And I bet you’ve said it too. Unless you’re a Mormon missionary in Uganda, in which case maybe you’re going with “life is long.” Regardless, time and age are all filtered through individual experience and human perception.

I’m about to face another decade change, which is what prompted this post on the Weekly Writing Challenge from WordPress. I’m not as panicked about this milestone as I was at age 25, but I’m not as laissez faire as I was at 30 either. Life is more even-keeled and normal these days, so perhaps I will take it in stride. But we’ll see on April 2nd. Maybe I’ll post pictures of myself proudly wearing a tiara with a giant number on it. Or maybe I’ll hide in the closet with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Or maybe I’ll buy a monokini from Victoria’s Secret and dye my hair orange and start using gangster words like “gat.”

I guess I’ll have to wait and see if age is really just a number.