For Henry DeTamble, the traveler in the book/film The Time Traveler’s Wife, time can slip into the past.
Henry (Eric Bana) suffers from a fanciful genetic disorder called chrono impairment, which means his body sometimes jumps to another time. He can’t control the time jumps and they usually happen at the most inopportune times – at work in the library, at home in the kitchen as he washes dishes, even on his wedding day.
To make matters much worse, it’s only his body that jumps, leaving the clothes he was wearing in a heap on the floor. When he appears in the new time, he must scrounge around for clothes and food to survive until he jumps back to his regular time.
Extraordinary things happen to him, yet he is unable to control time or prevent tragic events.
I am eight-years-old, standing next to my father at his desk and staring at the glowing green dial of his shortwave radio. Dad grew up in the radio generation when ballgames, presidential speeches and world-changing news could first be heard over the analog airwaves.
“Listen to this,” he says with a smile. “We can set our watches by the most accurate clock on the planet.” He slowly turns the dial through the different frequencies until he hears a series of metronome-like tones. “Beep…beep…beep…bong. The time is now fourteen minutes after the hour, Greenwich Mean Time.”
“That’s the radio signal from Greenwich, England,” he tells me. “Greenwich Mean Time is the standard used around the world.”
Half way around the world and in our Illinois home, time marches on, unabated.
Henry’s wife during his time-jumping adventures is Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams), the person Henry sees when he first time jumps. But when he meets her, he can’t talk about his chrono impairment because Clare is only nine-years-old. Unlike Henry, Clare’s life moves forward in a straight time line. As she matures, she meets many different versions of Henry, some old, some younger.
Intrigued and amused, Clare grows to support the time traveler by leaving old clothes and shoes on a nearby rock for the next time he appears. Despite the changing differences in their years, Clare soon falls in love with Henry.
Later in life, she asks him why he jumps so often to times and places around her. He explains that important people in your life just pull you in, like gravity.
I suspect it’s the same with special family moments we hold dearly in our memories.
I am 35-years-old, standing in the foggy bathroom with a big towel in hand, waiting to dry my boys after their evening bath. However, they are having a big time sliding down the back of the tub.
“Dad, put more water in,” says Connor as Tommy screams “weeeeee” and slides down the slippery slope, crashing into Connor. They fall over each other with big laughs and wide, bright eyes.
I surrender my needs and let their joyous laughter wash over me. It lifts my spirits immediately. I am young again.
In the film Footloose, Ren McCormack (Kevin Bacon) reads from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes to convince everyone that the high school students should be allowed to hold a dance.
“There is an appointed time for everything and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to be born and a time to die…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”
This passage is more than just a list of everyday events; it’s a statement that nothing can prevent these events from happening. Our lives flow on in our own straight time line. We can stop time from advancing about as well as stopping the waves from rolling onto the beach.
A more important verse in Ecclesiastes follows the list, describing how God “has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into (our) hearts, without man ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done.”
With all our digital watches, cell phones and Internet links to synchronize to Coordinated Universal Time, we may think we know the correct time. But we are timeless; we cannot predict when things will happen in God’s time.
We can, however, begin to understand God’s time through prayer. In our quiet prayers, the weeping, dancing, mourning and laughter of this world fades away. Our prayers transcend our time and look beyond. We slowly turn the dial, looking for the constant signal of God’s love.
Once we find the right frequency, we can switch off our internal chronometers and experience the sweet surrender to God’s time.
I want to fly like an eagle, to the sea. Fly like an eagle, let my spirit carry me.
Christopher Fenoglio listens to classic rock and watches movies at his home in Bellevue. First published in the October 2, 2009 issue of The Tennessee Register. © 2009 Christopher Fenoglio.