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May 9, 2013

WILLIAMS: There is no end to time

One reason I was so exultant when I retired is that retirement represents a definite completion ... and when you think about it, how many things in life do you finish for good? Not many because our existences mostly consist of a series of repetitions.

When you are a child, there are natural divisions in time. Each nine months of school is followed by a three-month long vacation. And each year is named, giving students the sense that they are making steady progress toward an end goal. You leave as a freshman and come back as a sophomore – sophomore to junior – junior to senior. Done! A diploma records your successful completion.

From there, some students may go to college but eventually, they will all enter the world of work and there, the time spans are artificial. You can tell yourself that you now have five years of seniority but, in truth, the fifth year that you punch a hole in a piece of metal or type a report or serve a plate of scrambled eggs is pretty much like the first four years. You will never finish the job. Those pieces of metal and reports and plates of eggs will go on endlessly. You will quit doing them when you resign or retire but not because the job is done. Someone else will step in and take your place – punching and typing and serving.

The rest of life is the same. You do laundry and make beds and wash dishes and run sweepers and by the time you turn around, it all needs doing again. You have a sense of satisfaction when you have the oil changed in your car but it seems that you’ve barely finished signing the check when it’s time to do it again ... as well as buying license plates and renewing your insurance.

Meanwhile, the fingernails you were so proud of a week ago are chipped and your perm has almost disappeared and the lawn needs mowing and the house payment is due. And you are thinking, “didn’t I just paint my nails and mow the grass and pay the house payment?” Sure you did ... but it’s time to do them again.

It seems that if you don’t keep on it, next thing you know, your driver’s license has expired and your library books are overdue and your house plants are dead.

Furthermore, you discover that even things you once fondly thought you’d be able to present as a done deal, doesn’t work that way at all. I remember having this vague idea about raising children — “18 and out.” You’d always love them, of course, but at 18 you’d be able to announce the job of raising them was finished. The reality is, you never complete the job of being a parent.

It’s often said that the older you get, the more time goes into fast forward mode. You probably don’t believe it until you get there yourself, but it’s true. I once worked at a chicken house. The moving belt which carried the eggs slowly and steadily to the processing plant once got jammed. Suddenly eggs were piling up behind one another, then spilling onto the floor by the hundreds, maybe even thousands. I tried catching them in my jacket but it was hopeless. I couldn’t begin to keep up. I watched helplessly as they fell and rolled, cracking and leaking. Eventually, the problem corrected itself and once again, the eggs began flowing smoothly down the line, leaving behind a river of shells and yolks and whites oozing down the aisle.

Even retired, when I thought that life would dial itself down to the “slow and sedate” setting, I still sometimes have the breathless feeling that I’m being inundated by a million suicidal eggs.

Vicki Williams is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached through the newspaper at ptnews@pharostribune.com.

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