Thursday, January 09, 2014

Three Minutes Forty Years Old

Christmas saw a special gift arrive under my tree this year.  Amidst the wonderful array of books, sweat pants, slippers, a helicopter (relax ... it's remote control only,) and other cool stuff, I received a DVD from Debbie.  Have I mentioned lately that she is the best wife ever to grace our planet?  She doesn't know how to stop loving.  She doesn't even know how to slow down.  And so while rummaging through her desk ... which use to be my father's ... she came across an old "Super 8" film marked as "1974."  Without knowing what was on it she took it to a local photography store and had them turn the film into a DVD.  A movie.  For me.  For Christmas.  When we put it in my laptop and started it up we found that the 3 minute video was of my family opening Christmas presents either on Christmas morning of 1973 or 1974.  My mom, dad, brother, sister-in-law, and I were passing gifts around the tree and having fun mugging for the camera as the early technology captured our images.

Three minutes forty years old.

I've watched that movie about 10 times today.  I look at myself at 18 years old and I wonder, if I knew then what my life would be like 40 years later at the age of 58, would I be pleased?  Would I be satisfied with the way things are turning out?  I cannot go back and ask me.  I can only remember the kid I was at that moment in my history and superimpose my present over the expectations that I remember having so very long ago.  I look at my brother and his wife and wonder if he would be shocked at the way life trended for him.  That marriage did not last.  He had a stroke while speaking in his churches pulpit in his forties.  I don't think he ever would have guessed how the years would play out for him.  Mainly I look at my parents and I wonder what they would have thought about the rest of their lives.  Dad has been gone for nearly 14 years.  Mom for just over 9. 

Mostly I look at them and I find myself coming to grips with the truth that this is the only existing piece of film that proves they were ever alive.  Certainly there are plenty of snapshots and photographs.  But those things are usually posed.  Film... film is alive.  I look at them and I see their smiles.  But what I really see is their faces blending from questioning, to smiling, to laughing, and then back to their conversation again.  That is because life is not lived as a snapshot.  Life is lived as one long transition.  We are ever changing, ever becoming, ever morphing.  History barely registers who we are before we become someone else.

Three minutes forty years old.

God built us this way.  We live in the continuum of time.  We cannot slow it, stop it, speed it up, or reverse it.  It has its way with us.  We never have our way with it.  I will remember the snow that fell this week until a bigger snow comes along to bump it from its place in my memory.  Something bigger always rolls over something smaller.  The Christmas day of new-found DVD fame appears to be a rather humble Christmas day.  The gifts had already been forgotten until the movie jogged my memory.  The knick-knacks around the house are in the landfills of Chicago now.  The clothes are worn out.  Two of the five bodies have been consecrated to their graves.

And still I sit in wonder and look at the parents who gave me life.  Their motions.  Their silent words.  The delight evident in their eyes.  I did not see any of it then.  Now I can't miss it.  The mundane has become the treasured.

I never saw that coming.

Today I will live differently.  I will learn from that 18 year old kid.  There is no way he could have known he would act as the instructor for the "older, wiser, more mature" me.   In a few hours I will see my wife again and I will embrace her with the realization that this is a moment being recorded for eternities sake, if only in the Eyes of God.  This evening I plan on visiting with two of my three "kids."  The truth is, they have not been kids for a very long time.  And I barely noticed the change.  Tonight I will notice.  I will annoy them by hugging them and kissing them on the cheek or the neck ... which ever they will leave exposed long enough.  I will miss my third child and I will wonder how he is getting along on this day in his ministry, marriage, free time, life. I may just decide to annoy him by clicking on "Face Time."  I will watch my 3 grandchildren eat and play and laugh and "do life."  And I will wonder ... if they find a video of me in forty years, will it get their attention.  In our age of "YouTube" I rather doubt it.  Images of fluid movement are everywhere today.  Only the saddest of persons have no one to shoot video of them.  Only the poorest of hearts have not been digitally immortalized forever.

But here is the thing.  Will it matter?  Will we ever learn to live in awe of the tsunami of life around us?  Will we ever slow down long enough to notice ... Her hair is changing colors ... his hands are wrinkling ... see how her eyes glisten when she laughs ... look at how easily he smiles ... she looks like she is lonely ... there is a heaviness in the way he moves ...

Three minutes carved out of time forty years ago is nothing.  Or it is everything.  It all depends on what I let it teach me.

(Let me live, oh God, as though each moment matters.  Remind me that life is not just fleeting ... it is quickly replaced by whatever ... whoever ... is next in line.  Except to the Eyes that capture every moment.  Please ... give me eyes like yours.)


The Dashboard Poet said...

Little Brother,
I wish my 20 year old self could have passed me some instruction. But had he, it may have resulted in a life sentence! Come to think of has.

I am eager to view your DVD. If it's the year I think, it ended in a snowball fight.

Little brother...I am in love with your gift of capturing the moment in prose. Thank you for sharing it with the world.