Melancholia and Relativity: Some Father’s Day Thoughts

I came to fatherhood later in life than most. Way later. I’m sure my son is going to have to listen to more than his share of comments along the lines of “It’s so sweet that you’re out with your granddad!” throughout his childhood. I hope he’ll think it’s as funny as I will.

People told me after Graham was born that now my life would really speed up, so I’d better make sure to enjoy the moments. But by that time my life was already as fast as it could possibly get. My life was the streaks of starlight whipping past when the Millennium Falcon jumps into hyperspace. You know your life has reached a terminal velocity when someone hands you a check and you say, “What? Payday again already?”

I’m not experiencing a change in the speed of time like I think most first-time fathers do (or at least, that’s how they recollect the time when they look back on it; in the moment, screaming babies in the middle of the night are more of a time decelerator than a time speeder-upper). But I am experiencing time differently.

Because even while I’m spending time with Graham, I miss him. It’s like I’m experiencing our time together as a memory of a day long past. Like a memory, I see little details in stark relief–his bouncing run on his little rounded feet, his bottom lip stuck out in concentration, his little stubby fingers finding their way around a toy train car. And like a thin mist surrounding it all is the feeling that this is something lost, something I once had but don’t anymore.

Not to sound too confusing (or maybe to sound as confusing as possible), but what is an experience other than the foreshadowing of a future memory? What we gather in with our senses is what the brain processes and files away for later. Whether we’re seeing it right now or recalling it later, the same neurons fire. The only difference is time.

And what it time, or your perspective of it, compresses down so far that there is no distance between the experience and the memory? Do you ache for things that are right in front of you, things that are in your hands right now?

I think that’s how God sees us. Time doesn’t matter to him, but our separation from him matters a lot. The yearning that we have for the good things in our past is a taste–and just a small taste–of the yearning that he has for us in the present. It’s why he calls us to himself, in the same way we’d call those memories back, if we could.

That feeling, the feeling of memories in the present, makes me all the more attentive of making the memories into good ones while I can. When you re so literally building your memories, you don’t take much for granted. It’s a melancholy feeling, but I still see it as a great gift, from someone who knows a little about fatherhood.

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