A comparison of the passage of time then and now
|Meditations on Time
I can remember when my younger sister was born. Watching her was a mixture of having fun and being bored. An hour sometimes went by in a flash leaving something unsaid and me wanting to stay, or it could drag out for what seemed like an eternity when she was screaming or sleeping. When she was between those poles, she was fun. By the time I reached five, she was eight-months old. She was an apt pupil. I taught her how to communicate in a mixture of pre-English and sign language.
I was very ill right around this time. She gave me the benefit of starting over from zero again with her. She taught me to center my mind around the immediate present, living in the moment. She had no concept of time beyond now.
As old Dr. Stuart became aware of my constant fever of one hundred and one, he gave me Sulfa drugs and aspirin. i had rheumatic fever and didn’t have much energy. A couple of nearly fatal temperature spikes of unknown duration caused brain damage. I remember being bathed in what seemed to me to be freezing water. I think those baths saved my life. I lost my motor control to the fever. I remember how hard it was for me to learn to walk again. Funny, my little sister cheered me on, and I did the same for her. We learned a lot together. We read aloud any book I could get my hands on, to her. We are still close despite the difference in our ages.
There were times when it took a few minutes for her to understand my description of the results of certain behavior. It was difficult to explain in the language she would best understand. We didn’t fight because I could understand why she was feeling a certain way. The trick was to figure out what we could do together to ease her discomfort. Once she knew that I understood her, and she understood that I would get punished if my parents had to get involved. Most of the time we would work well together
We protected each other from our jealous rather psychopathic older brother as best we could. He was as clever with his tortures of us. It is amazing how much pain can be inflicted through a bed pillow and never leave a mark.
This meditation is supposed to be about time, so I’ll get back on track. A day has always been a day, hasn’t it? Why is it when you are six the time between May and September was such a long time? We as children figured out how to enjoy nearly every second of Summer Vacation.
I remember Sharon as a tiny baby. I held her on my lap for most of the trip, when we went to visit my Dad who was working at a lumber-mill. We had a flat tire. My older brother, then just eleven, changed the right front tire on our 1937 Ford Touring Car. I remember the company picnic, a feast of sliced roast beef and ham hot off the fire. The Soiree including three brands of beer, was furnished by a prefab home company. That was far above and beyond our usual fare of bologna and bread sandwiches washed down with milk. I remember eating bread on bread sandwiches to stretch a package of meat or cheese as far as possible.
My older brother always ate three to four times as much as I did. He was five years older than I, so in that time frame I understand he was trying to keep up with his altitude change. It takes a lot of soup and bologna or cheese sandwiches for a kid to grow three inches in six months.
The Company that threw the generous picnic went bankrupt when the government contract to furnish two-bedroom dwellings to an ammunition storage depot was awarded elsewhere. They couldn’t afford to pay their employees for the last month.
Dad was stone broke and had to use the pocket change he had saved to move us to the Depot. Our new home had a major repository for chemical weapons both those from WW1 as well as and newly manufactured ones.
Most people have no idea that the Us Army took the last delivery of mustard gas, from an old virtually unbreakable contract. in the year 1976. A certain chemical company kept their doors open all that time despite the post war “Tightening the belt claims by certain factions of the US Government.
The specter of the Hun and shadow of Japan. cast a blanket of fear across the minds of the military. So, millions of tons of weapons that were obsolete before the contract to manufacture them was let were stored in this out of the way place. The big secret of that time is that army depot was also the repository of a weapon too horrible to be used, “The atom Bomb!”
I personally have no estimate of numbers but I heard the Depot commander a Colonel, brag in his veterans day speech, “There are enough mustard gas bombs here to place a row of four side to side from Callas Maine to the border crossing at Tijuana.”
I frequently had nightmares while we lived in the depot “Total Destruction Zone.” I dreamed of the fires of Hell Just the other side of the cyclone fence had been unleashed.
My sister would sit by me on the rails on our porch we rood for miles on our imaginary horses as we watched open mouthed the steady flow of eighteen-wheel trucks out the front gate headed to an air base 100 miles north bound for Korea. Miles of railroad cars were loaded and hauled to Seattle for shipment to Korea. The shipments didn't decrease after the Armistice. I have no idea of their final destination.
We understood the raw power of the explosions on the Burning hills where obsolete and unsafe ammunition was destroyed. At times things would fall from the shelves where mom kept knickknacks some from Sweden where grandma came from. None of her Knickknacks of that era survived The shock wave from each destructive blast was different depending on humidity and temperature as well as the size and exact placement of the ammunition to be destroyed.
As children we didn’t appreciate the amount of body parts that would be blasted airborne when those same sized bombs found targets in Korea. There was something inside me that hurt when I thought about such (not to be talked about) things. Though I still played war with guns made from rifle stocks from salvage and a large dowel rod for a barrel, I had a vague feeling that the Guts and Glory from the Saturday Matinee Movies that we reenacted was bogus and exaggerated.
My sister and I didn’t have to talk all that much because we understood each other and knew just when to smile at each other and when to give a reassuring hug. I could sense her distress and usually knew why. My brother was cagey, and I was blinded by the fact I didn’t really want to see anything that horrible.
It seemed to me each summer was significantly shorter than its predecessor. I managed not to be aware of the things my brother did to my sister, partly due to the fact that he did as bad to me. I remember after our eleven years old neighbor didn’t wake up one morning, he told me that his best friend had smothered his little brother with a pillow. To make sure that I understood his message, he held a pillow over my face till I passed out. I woke up later to the dead sound or his voice telling me, "Lots of kids die in their sleep and no one knows why. We were isolated and our police department was mostly guys who loved to patrol the hundred plus miles of fence lines which surround our safe little haven in the high desert.
So many horrible things like Rape were swept under the carpet because no one wanted to admit what was going on. Incestual rape was so common it was almost accepted. My older brother flourished in those surroundings. His disdain for anyone younger or weaker was apparent to me but my parents would not allow themselves to believe they raised a monster.
My brother hid in plain sight another four years after he graduated from high school. He worked at a mine near an Indian reservation. There were lots of starving children who would do anything for a soda and a candy bar or Ice cream. He was just one of many who did the same things, and his crimes were off the reservation, so law enforcement turned a blind eye.
Time passed and I suddenly found myself with nowhere to go after High School, so I joined the Navy at the same time as my brother. I hated the thought of leaving my poor sister to the whims and moods of our mother. I was eager to get away even though the four-year enlistment which I faced seemed like an impossibly long time, it was better than trying to stay home. I had to find a place to go.
I had a leg shorter than the other and in the years 17 to 21 the difference grew from 1 1/2" to 3 ½ " during my enlistment. The Navy Doctors hadn’t noticed one leg was shorter by at least an inch and a half, when I went in. They wanted my mind and my ability to figure out what was wrong with complicated electronic equipment. They didn't care that I looked funny trying to march. it wasn’t until I took a physical for employment in the civilian sphere that it was recognized.
I remain badly uncoordinated till this day from both the leg and the brain damage from fever. Some symptoms get worse with age. When I look into the mirror I can't deny that I have grown old. And days stream by like machine gun bullets no matter how much I wish to slow them down.
Now I wish I could borrow from the Sumner Vacation time of my youth and spend those moments miserly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. When we are born our first moments outside the womb are our entire lifetime. Time as we recognize it shrinks as it passes because of all the minutes past that we must compare it to. One minute is so very small next to a lifetime of minutes.Each day I become more intent to spend each minute I have left as productively as possible.Time keeps steady pace with the pendulum of the clock downstairs in the office and I realize that younger people can’t have the perspective that I have, because their lifetime of minutes is so much smaller than mine.
Please use your time wisely. Otherwise You will understand after it is too late.