Thursday, October 1, 2015


“This will haunt you; it will not leave you alone until you write about it,” Bill said as he handed me a napkin where he had scribbled these words:
                                                         “Just a Minute.”
      You – Birth – Death
   Family – Grandparents

I had sat next to Bill at a meeting last week. He is older than me – not enough to be my father, more like a wise, cool uncle. He and I had just finished eating breakfast when the speaker took the stage. A few minutes later Bill wrote something on a napkin and pushed it towards me accompanied by his commentary. I read it, and for a moment I thought about the message on the napkin and the words he spoke. I smiled and put it in my notebook.

Having considered Bill’s written and spoken words for almost a week, I have concluded that for me the message is both clear and complicated. There is no such thing as “just a minute.” No minute is insignificant, no minute passes by twice; it is here and gone, and with each minute that passes we age and life changes gradually or quickly.

Yes, I know I am only talking minutes, not years, months or even days, but please consider that it is within those brief moments when life happens. People are born, they get married, they raise their family, they become grandparents, and then one day the clock stops ticking and their time is up.

My brother Dan, whose clock stopped a few years ago, told me once that he would rather lose his eyesight than his hearing. My preference seems even more disturbing. I believe I would rather lose my physical health than my mental faculties. Now would be a good time for you to make a joke.

Of my limited attributes I treasure my memory the most and the thought of losing it scares me beyond measure. Memories that are forty years old seem as fresh as yesterday’s rain. A friend of mine is helplessly watching the creeping monster of dementia consume her father. If it continues it will have the effect of taking her father from her though he still lives.

When my daughter was a very little girl she used to say “last night,” as a reference to anything that happened in the past.  She would ask, “Remember lass night?  We were at Grandma’s house?” It didn’t matter that it was last week instead of the night before; she knew it happened sometime in the past and that the past has a way of running into the present.

Last night my daughter was three, and today she is a mother of two boys, and sometimes those boys make me laugh and cry often in the same minute.

It’s after six and it’s dusky – almost dark; another day is about to pass much too quickly. The sun will set in less than an hour, just a minute or two after seven.

Bill gave me a topic he thought I should write about; the message was obvious to him and he didn’t want me to miss out. He may as well have told me that I am losing my hair. No Bill, you don’t have to tell me there is no such thing as “Just a minute,” but thanks for making it so clear.  You are right, it will haunt me for the rest of my days.

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