The antebellum house where I grew up was never really quiet. Cars swished by and trucks roared past as they traveled our busy road night and day.
There was the usual hustle and bustle of three boys living together, the sounds of my mother cooking in the kitchen and the quiet tumble of the washer and dryer.
Yet when day turned to night and all had gone to bed, one haunting sound echoed through the heart pine floors and the house’s high ceilings. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Tick, tock.
There was a chorus of ticks, tocks and chimes because my father loved clocks. They hung on the walls of our living room and dining room, in the den and even in the kitchen.
Dad loved big clocks, small clocks and imperfect clocks that didn’t always work right. His favorite was a beautiful grandfather clock built by my grandfather. Granddaddy even cut the timber for his work of art from family land in rural Alabama.
I remember when he delivered it to our home in Eufaula, proudly presenting it to my mother and father. I was fascinated by the chains, the weights, the glass case and the shiny pendulum.
Dad quickly learned how to pull the chains, which he deftly did every day on all of our clocks throughout the house. He would often whistle as he walked around the house doing what was one of his favorite chores.
When all of the clocks were wound, there was a strange symphony of slow ticks and tocks, gongs and strikes. The chimes were more elaborate on the hour, shorter sequences chimed every quarter-hour.
Lying in the bed at night, I remember staring at the ceiling, cursing those clocks and the eerie sounds they made as everyone else slept. I suppose the cars and the trucks and the clocks are one reason I still sleep with a box fan. That or the fact my first nursery was in the laundry room.
While at home with my mother over the holidays recently , I noticed something strange. The house was silent. No ticks. No tocks. No chimes. I asked mom if they still worked, and she said they did. They just hadn’t been wound in the four years since my Father passed away. I suddenly longed for the slow ticks and tocks, the piercing sound of the chimes reverberating through the foyer.
I walked to the cozy library in the front of the house to look at our grandfather clock. My eyes were drawn to something just above the face of the clock. It was a globe set into the clock’s face with the words “Tempus Fugit” scrolled across it. I’d never noticed it before, and had no clue what it meant, knowing only “tempus” was probably Latin for time.
Instead of reaching for the expansive set of encyclopedias on the tall book shelves behind me, I pulled out my Iphone and Googled it. Tempus Fugit. It is indeed a Latin expression, literally meaning “time flees.” More commonly translated as “time flies.”
Making this little discovery in the clock I’d looked at many times before was in some ways a revelation, a sobering yet strangely hopeful reminder of something I needed to remember.
Time doesn’t stop. It doesn’t stop for the most joyous moments in our lives. It doesn’t stop for our most difficult trials. No matter how badly we want it to, time doesn’t magically freeze as our children grow up too fast.
We can wish time would slow down during the good times, even if just for a little while. We can wish time would march along faster through our struggles. But time is the one measurable thing in our lives that we are powerless to control. She steadily and methodically marches on, no matter what we do.
I am glad 2013 has faded into the past. I will accept it. I will learn from it. I will one day appreciate it. But I will never miss it.
Looking toward 2014 with a hopeful heart and a vow to be a better husband and father, I will try to remember the words of the great modern-day philosopher, Ferris Beuller. “Life moves by pretty fast. If you don’t stop and take a look around, you might miss it.”
Happy New Year, friends, family and visitors alike. Your love, your support and the grace of God made it possible for me to see what 2014 has to offer.