Columns, Grace Notes

All of one piece

I have been doing a little time traveling lately. My travels began when I attended a reunion of my high school graduating class of 1967. I commented to the friend with whom I was driving to the occasion that anticipating a reunion brings out all my insecurities related to how I have spent the years between graduation and the present.

Jean Johansson

It may have been a self-fulfilling prophecy when the first classmate with whom I entered into a conversation that evening responded to my question about what she had been doing recently by saying, “My husband and I bought a 25-foot boat 10 years ago and have been sailing around the world ever since. We’ve crossed the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans and the boat is currently being transported to the south of France [to avoid a stretch of ocean subject to pirate attacks], from which we will continue sailing.”

I almost got whiplash from that particular bit of time travel, with all its bits of past, present, and future.

Yikes! Suddenly, I imagined myself as Tina Fey, in a movie based on the angst of attending a class reunion, and was tempted to blurt out the response, “Me, too!” Truth be told, of course, I enjoyed connecting with people I hadn’t seen for years.

One of the most gratifying discoveries was that cliques that were so much a part of high school were truly a thing of the past, and we were united in the camaraderie that a shared high school experience brings at this stage of our lives.

A picture worth a thousand words …

My next stop was further back in time. The week after the reunion, I received a packet from the widow of my uncle, who had died in 2012. At my father’s funeral 15 years ago, I had asked my uncle, who was my father’s only sibling, to please write down some family history. I knew next to nothing about my father’s upbringing or members of his extended family.

The packet I received in the mail included photos taken during the time my father and uncle were growing up, plus 14 pages of childhood recollections handwritten by my uncle. I pored over the photos of great-uncles, great-aunts, and great-grandparents (all of whom I had never seen before), my father and uncle as children, the home in which they were raised, and a list, handwritten by a family member in 1909, naming my grandmother and her siblings and the birthdates of each. That’s how I learned that two of my grandmother’s siblings were twin boys, born on Halloween, named William Walter and Walter William.

My uncle’s reminiscences immersed me in episodes that took place during my father’s and uncle’s upbringing in the 1920s and 30s. I scrutinized the images of family members, whose names I may never know but whose genetic material is part of mine and my descendants, for features similar to mine and other family members.

An ultrasound photo, even more

Most recently, my brother and I spent an hour meeting with two home-care professionals at the home of our 96-½ year old mother. We discussed how best to care for her so that she can continue to live safely in her house as long as possible, which is where she wants to be.

Two hours after that meeting, I was viewing an ultrasound as it was being done on my 6-months-pregnant daughter. Within a period of four hours, I had spent time with the oldest member of my family, and the not-yet-born newest member of my family. I almost got whiplash from that particular bit of time travel, with all its bits of past, present, and future.

Many years ago I read a theory that sought to explain, in terms people could understand, how God perceives time. It suggested that God perceives the entirety of time all at once, seeing all events that did occur, will occur, and are occurring stretched out before God, with no distinction of whether the events are past, present, or future. I’m entering the New Year with a better understanding of the depth of that explanation.

Tags: , ,