Time passes

The term “jet lag” is generically applied to the feeling of disorientation that comes from traveling across many time zones at a high speed. The reality may not be one of lag, but rather one of being ahead. However, we traveled across the International Time line on this trip, so we are literally ahead of the time to which our bodies were adjusted. Back home, it is nearly 11:30 am. Here is is 2:30 am the next day. Our bodies are adjusting fairly well. We maintained a nearly normal schedule yesterday with a couple of times of feeling tired during the day. Now we are having a bit of wakefulness in the middle of the night, but we’ll be able to go back to sleep before long and rise at the normal time here.

The world didn’t know much about jet lag before there were jets to allow for rapid travel. If you travel by ship or across land by car or another conveyance, the rate of travel allows your body to adjust while you travel. The whole phenomena of time zones is a fairly modern concept, adopted in the late 19th Century to accommodate train schedules and the need to have a system of time keeping that allowed it to be the same time in two different places. Prior to the adoption of the Universal Time Zone System, each place had its own time, drawn from observing the position of the sun in the sky. Humans have evolved and adapted over the eons to be daytime creatures, rising with the sun and retiring with its setting.

While we are not jet setters, we have enough experience with travel to know that we can adjust to time changes fairly easily and a couple of days of feeling a bit tired is all we need to endure when we make the big changes.

There is another kind of time lag that I have been experiencing in the last couple of days. It involves the kind of traveling through time that all of us make on this life’s journey. Time passes. We age. We collect memories and sometimes those memories are very vivid and have an influence on the present.

The main business of yesterday, for us, was holding our new grandson. He is just two weeks old, so his days are filled with eating, sleeping, and having his diaper changed. The big events in his day yesterday were a ride in his stroller for an outside walk and a bath. His sleep cycles are based on his feeding. He has his diaper changed then he eats and when he is full he dozes. He could be put into his crib, but when grandparents are near by, we enjoy holding him as he dozes and he sleeps well in the arms of a parent or grandparent.

Holding that tiny baby sure brought to my mind the days of when our children were infants. The stories of his mother’s infancy began to come to my mind. I would tell about some particular incident and she might ask a question or two and pretty soon I’d have another story to tell. It isn’t that I am confused about what time it is or how old she is or the presence of a grandson. It is just that those memories enrich this present experience.

I suspect that baby Patrick will one day find some of grandpa’s stories to be boring. He’ll probably also find a few of them to be interesting. Children like to hear stories of their parents and to think of their parents as children at certain stages of their own development.

The story of tiny babies and how they transform the lives of their families have been with our people for many generations. If you read through the Bible, you will find that there are a lot of stories about wanting babies, anticipating babies and having babies. We have a whole birth narrative of Jesus, but only a single story of his childhood. There are many other biblical characters whose stories are told without any detail of childhood years at all. Babies and adults seem to make up the bulk of the bible’s narrative stories. And the stories of our people are filled with people longing for children and having to wait for children.

Grandparents get a unique perspective on children. It is, in part, a reward of a health care system that allows us to live longer. We get to see our grandchildren grow and mature. We carry direct memories of their parents’ growing and maturing as well. This multi-generational perspective is valuable. Yes, our daughter is very tired, having to care for her baby every two or three hours, and catching her sleep in short snatches as her baby sleeps. But we know that this will not be a forever kind of tired. There are lots of parts of being a parent that involve not getting to sleep when you might otherwise do so, but the intensity of infant care starts to stretch out fairly quickly when viewed from the perspective of a grandparent. I remember waking with her in the middle of the night, but those times passed quickly in my memory. Before long she will start awake because her baby has slept longer than she expected and she’ll check on him to make sure he is ok. Then, before long, he will sleep for six or seven hours. He’ll begin to be awake in the daytime more and sleep more at night. Her life will resume a routine that is closer to her normal.

Time passes. We adjust. By tomorrow, I’ll be able to stay up all day and participate in the usual activities without feeling tired. I won’d even be able to remember quite what my jet lag felt like. In the larger human story, the span of a single lifetime isn’t very much. It passes quickly and at each stage we have to pass the mantle from one generation to the next.

Actually the experience of jet lag and the appearance of memories of other times is quite pleasant. As I frequently say to my friends and others, “There’s no down side to being a grandpa.” That isn’t quite true. The downside is that it all goes by so quickly that it sometimes makes my head spin. But I know these times are very precious and am able to treasure each moment that I am granted.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!