Time Holds You In Its Hands

Snow came down harder and harder, over and over, day after day.  Each morning I looked out the little guest room window I shared with my father, I groaned at the site, wondering how the van driver could get up the long sidewalk, now buried under snow, to wheel my dad back to the van for dialysis a mile away.

View outside parent’s apartment

Seven days prior my mother called to say dad was in the hospital with double pneumonia.  At age eighty-five and failing kidneys, I made a quick decision to fly to Illinois and of course upon my arrival was the very first approaching winter snow storm in the Midwest.

Early the very next day, I drove to Quincy at Blessing hospital to see dad. The news was out the storm was on its way, blazing up through Oklahoma and hammering across Missouri to Quincy which sets right on the Mississippi River on the Illinois side. One of my cousins called at 11:00 a.m.to say the snow was falling one inch every fifteen minutes and to watch out the window. I sat by dad and chatted about anything he wanted to talk about or hear about, looking over my shoulder out the window which faced the river. Please let me have enough time to stay. Within a half hour of my phone call, I saw the white blanket of snow coming across the river and heading toward the hospital. It was a thick sheet of white. 

“Dad, I have to go, the snow has hit, and I can’t see more than three blocks’ from here. I need to stay ahead of it.” A nurse popped her head in, “You better hurry, it’s time!”

“No problem, no problem, I know you need to go, you get along.”  Dad was thin, gray, and reached for my hand. I kissed him and said I would be back as soon as possible. 

Living in Arizona, we do not see much snow, fast and furious, covering sidewalks, and city streets, burying cars within minutes. I drove the little Ford 4-wheel drive Ranger my brother loaned me through town onto the interstate. The roads were barely visible but I could see the sidewalks and stop lights. The right lane had a few tire tracks imprinted in the snow but quickly vanished. The further I drove, the harder the snow and the narrow tracks I followed disappeared. What aligned me to keep going was the snow had not yet stuck to the dead grass along the interstate and I measured the distance from the grass to my right tires to stay on the pavement at 45 mph as other motorists pulled off to the side. How much time would it take to get back to mom? I could see her glancing at her watch, straining through the curtains and the haze of snow. There were enough worries and concerns weighing down the hands of her clock.

I spun and skidded up a small incline, down shifted, and finally pulled in front of my parents’ small apartment. Time let me make it. Time gave me a break. Time allowed me to bring my dad home from the hospital on cleared roads three days later.

View from hospital window

Aion, the Greek god of Time

Aion, Greek god of Time

I believe in second chances. I believe that even in seemingly impossible cases, I can offer a broken soul reprieve. Sometimes a person must be stripped to their lowest point to find what is truly important. I watched Nathan and his brother go through tough times and I think they deserve another chance. This is Nathan’s story. A story of redemption. A story I, Time, healed.

After leaving the plains behind, the terrain became hilly. Hills and hollers, Nathan thought as the train wound through a narrow valley between steep rises on both sides of the tracks. He was on his way home for the last time. He tried to stop thinking, forecasting, what it would be like to see his mother again. He imagined the furrows of worry etched in her face were even deeper than three years ago when she visited him in jail.

Her frail body would be held together by a thick wrap of sadness. Her youngest son was dead. Not just dead but executed by the state of Colorado. The only execution since 1976. What she didn’t know was that her remaining son would be dead in a matter of days. Nathan couldn’t live with the guilt he carried over Jamie. It had been Nathan who pulled the trigger, not Jamie. Nathan’s plan, Nathan’s mistake. But he didn’t find the stones to step up and admit it and Jamie kept his silence throughout the trial, never giving his brother up to the authorities. He could no longer carry that burden.

He had to see his mother and clear her mind about Jamie’s innocence. Nathan knew her love was unconditional, and she would never in her heart believe that either of her sons could be so evil. But there she was wrong. Nathan planned the robbery and carried the gun. Jamie did not even know about the gun until Nathan pulled it from his jacket pocket. The store owner rushed Nathan and the gun went off. It became a distorted nightmare. Jamie grabbed the gun from Nathan and, as they ran from the store, he dumped it into a trash can in the alleyway. Of course, the police found it and Jamie’s prints were on it, so he was charged with the murder. Nathan had gone to jail for ten years as an accessory, and he was now on parole for ten more years. Jaimie had been executed just a few days ago, after two appeals.

The train entered a tunnel, the darkest longest tunnel. Lights on the train flickered and went out. It felt like a steep downward trek. As deep and dark as Nathan imagined the trip to hell would be. There was a mumbling from other passengers, but no one left their seat. It is my turn to step in.

I am Aion, the god of Time. You might be more familiar with my twin Chronos but he is only the god of measured time, the one that is marked off by clocks, hourglasses and other man-made instruments. He fulfills the human need to track time, quantify and qualify it. I, on the other hand, am the god of the continuum. I never stop. I am neither forward nor backward. I am always. I am forever. Occasionally I find it necessary to meddle in the affairs of humans when I see an example such as the one presented by Nathan and Jamie, two truly good-hearted young men who went astray for what they believed was a good cause. Their sister suffered from a rare cancer and the expense of her treatment decimated family resources. In what they considered a desperate moment they made a poor decision with deadly consequences.

Steena died without any remedy and the brothers went to jail. Their mother was thrice impacted in sorrow, losing her daughter, a son to the system and now Nathan considers suicide. When the train leaves the tunnel the poor decision to rob a store will be voided. I took Nathan back to the crucible of decision and gave him a second chance. He is indeed on his way to see his mother, but it is to manage his sister’s funeral. He is meeting his brother and as a family they will mourn but be united. The intervening ten years were spent in productive ways. He met his wife and they collaborated with doctors to start a charity to raise awareness and research grants for others who suffered as Steena did.

The train exited the tunnel. Nathan squinted at the sudden brightness and glanced out the window as the train sped past an open area of farmland.  It all looked familiar, but not. He thought only of seeing his mom, comforting her in her grief and being once again with his brother after ten year’s separation. It would be a happy/sad occasion. At least they would all be together.

I, Aion, can change the moments of an event but I cannot completely erase some of the impressions. My little brother Kairos oversees the significance of an experience. Impressions may be imprinted in a person and come as flashbacks or deja-vu moments. People often believe they have been somewhere or seen someone before. Actually, I have rearranged a period in their life so the connections are blurred, but Kairos has stamped it with a sense of meaning that is irretrievable.

Thursday’s prompt – Time

The prompt for your writers’ group for September 8th is to write a piece that anthropomorphizes Time. Give Time a persona and let Time tell a tale. Time can write a poem. Time can narrate a piece of memoir. Time can tell on itself in an essay or reveal a story. It can be forward-looking or explore the past. Is it always truth-telling or can Time deceive? Is Time witty or severe? The novel, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is written from the point of view of Death, an omniscient observer of events. Time can do the same.

shallow focus of clear hourglass
Photo by Jordan Benton on Pexels.com

Sally, Jackie, and I will write to this prompt also and post next week. I will post my take on Monday, Sally on Wednesday, and Jackie on Friday. Part of the fun of a writers’ group is to see the different directions in which a single prompt can lead. I hope you enjoy this creative nudge.

In our book, Telling Tales and Sharing Secrets, we have an index of prompts that inspired and challenged us through the years.