In an email back around Christmas, a friend told me his son, maybe 12 or 13 years old, said he couldn‚??t believe it was another Christmas already. My friend‚??s response was something like:
No big deal, perhaps, just a cute little quip about the rapid passing of time. Except for this: my friend is a scientist. A scientist with a doctorate. And while I do believe his response to his little boy was more tongue-in-cheek than scientific, I wondered at the time if he wasn‚??t actually onto something ‚?? if the earth isn‚??t really spinning faster but we humans can‚??t perceive it. We sense it, as we write 2012 on checks before we got comfortable with 2011, but tend to brush it off, thinking it must be ‚??just us.‚?Ě But what if it‚??s not just us? If my friend is reading this, the scientist in him surely is laughing. And that‚??s okay. I‚??m not offended. But I have to say I cannot stop thinking about his comment. Even as I write, I have a hard time accepting that the email I‚??m talking about has already rocketed nearly two months into the past. And taken Christmas right along with it. I think about my friend‚??s comment when I find myself referring to last Sunday‚??s Super Bowl, only to be corrected that it was actually Sundays ago. I think about it when it seems I carry a bag of garbage to the curb every night of the week, instead of just Tuesday. Or when Friday evening turns into Monday morning with seemingly nothing in between. I think about it every time I hear someone refer to ‚??1980‚?Ě and literally have to do the math to convince myself that 1980 was more than 30 years ago. In fact, I just took a moment and worked that out with paper and pencil to be sure. I‚??m not kidding. I was thinking about my friend‚??s comment when I heard Whitney Houston had died and all I could picture was my three-year-old little girl in front of the TV at my mom‚??s house watching Whitney sing ‚??I Want to Dance with Somebody‚?Ě on a program called ‚??Nick Rocks‚?Ě on the Nickelodeon network. Wasn‚??t that just yesterday that I dressed her in Osh Kosh B‚??gosh bibbed denims in the morning and allowed her to wear two different colored socks because that‚??s what she wanted before dropping her off at Grammy‚??s while I went off to work? If it was yesterday, then who is that 28-year-old who drove from Austin, Texas, to Los Angeles Saturday to start a new job? Of course, I know who that is. I just find it incomprehensible. She‚??s the big sister of a little tyke who just caught a pop up for the final out in a tee-ball game with me coaching. I‚??m certain I‚??m supposed to throw his uniform in the wash today and then help him with his homework, except he turned 25 in September and moved from Boulder, Colorado, to Chicago last week, also to take a new job. The two of them used to be the children of a guy who planned his whole day around them. Suddenly, they‚??ve become the children of some old man I catch looking at me from the mirror every morning. I know this guy, whose beard he is about to shave is no longer gray but white, and I feel sorry for him. He never saw any of this coming. I remember what he was like in the days when the earth spun a lot slower. Summer days of sandlot baseball would go on forever. And even as an adult, he‚??d go off on a five-mile jog on a country road and while he might be gone only an hour or so, out there, alone with his thoughts, time would practically stand still. That guy thought he ‚?? and his kids ‚?? would be young forever. Today you might find that same guy still ‚??running,‚?Ě but now on an apparatus at a gym while watching Sportscenter on an overhead TV monitor and checking his smart phone for email messages, hopefully from his kids. And when one of those messages is from a friend joking that the earth is spinning faster he latches onto it and convinces himself must be the problem. After writing this column, I know I have to get a hold of that guy in the mirror and tell him maybe it isn‚??t the earth that‚??s spinning faster after all, maybe he is. I‚??d better find him soon, though. I‚??ve heard him say more than once that if the next 20 years go by as fast as the last 20, he‚??ll soon be an old man in a nursing home. Somebody has to save him from that.