What time doesn’t tell

Vanessa Pralle

The entirety of my Thanksgiving break was spent with the elderly. No, not volunteering at nursing homes, but with my grandparents in the Virginia outback, where Confederate flags flap readily outside of homes and lumpy trenches bend and fold the earth as long-lasting remnants from General Grant’s northern troops. It epitomizes the cliché, “in the middle of nowhere” as wild beasts roam amid the barren fields with sushi-rolled hay stacks peppering the endless monotony of nothingness. For the first time in my life, I began to fret that the four-day vacation may actually be much longer than I anticipated.

This realization was eventually compounded by the fact that my grandparents, for however loving, doting, and blissfully adoring they may be, conduct their existence in what I’ll refer to as “slow-motion mode.” Contrary to Einstein’s theory of relativity, time for grandparents, particularly those who have been retired for 10+ years, no longer bears relevance.

My grandfather, once a highly scrupulous radiologist who rose at 4 a.m. each day, now lives meal to meal, diligently awaiting the next opportunity to chow down.

My grandmother still keeps a hectic schedule, except that not a lot gets done in the day, per se.

If she chooses to go grocery shopping, it will turn into a day-long escapade: compiling items to put on the list, misplacing her glasses, making lunch for Grandpa, taking a shower, finding her glasses, trying to figure out how to charge the cell phone in case anyone needs to contact her, discovering the car keys are in her coat pocket from yesterday, feeding the dog, wrapping a birthday present for a friend, going to feed the ducks, losing the car keys …etc.

Slow-motion mode mixed with a technologically-savvy (not really but compared to them), fast-forward college student mode is bound to brew some kind of lethal concoction.

Luckily, no explosion occurred, but I guarantee it would have had the vacation lasted any longer. On the four and a half hour drive back to Villanova, I began thinking about my life as a college student versus their “Leave it to Beaver” young adulthood in the 1950s.

We’ve all heard the annoyingly familiar, “Oh, back in my day…” opening to an excruciating journey down memory lane, but I began thinking that if we’re currently in fast-forward mode, what pace will our children or – yikes! -grandchildren be in fifty years down the line? I mean, our generation depends on technology and the Internet to sustain life just like President Bush needs dubious fables of weapons of mass destruction to sustain supporters of fictious Rovean propaganda. What could possibly come next? Tele-cyber-connectic-travel-velocity (just picture the Jetsons)?

Not to say I have a problem with the increasingly rapid life, for I, like the rest of us, am a product of it too. Likewise, I could never assimilate to grandparent slow-motion mode with all my marbles in tact, but there is something to be said for slowing down every now and then and appreciating the moment.

My grandparents couldn’t care less whether it’s a Friday or Tuesday or for that matter whether the year is 2005 or 1995 (p.s. always a good idea to smell milk before pouring. They also don’t care about expiration dates).

Yet, despite all the shortcomings I notice, they dwell in blissful harmony, having graduated from the incessant need to rush to appointments and loathing various obligations.

Instead, if my grandma feels so inclined, she can spend a truly existential afternoon drifting from feeding the ducks that waddle up to her backyard to reading a book or sketching the mohawked cardinals who frequently visit near her kitchen bay window.

Ironically, their time on earth is numbered, and yet they’re at peace living without their days crammed with scheduled requirements.

About two weeks ago on a Tuesday afternoon in front of Falvey, I witnessed a giant hawk swoop down and grab a squealing squirrel in its clasped yellow claws. The massive bird’s wingspan was easily three feet, and once it settled up in a tree, I caught glimpses of its perfectly curved beak and forever darting feather-duster head.

Despite hordes of people cluttering the area, only three bystanders, including myself, noticed the amazing prowess of nature.

Everyone else was cranked up in fast-forward mode, exchanging anecdotes from the previous night on their cell phones, hustling to class, and taking final drags on cigarettes before discarding them in the bushes. It was survival of the fittest at its finest, and yet so many missed out.

If the upcoming generation speeds through life even faster than we do, I wonder how many will have the opportunity to relish life’s little wonders.

In the words of The Eagles (how appropriate with the preceding bird paragraph), “Time keeps on slippin’ into the future…” but, I would venture to add, it all depends on how we use it.