• Joe

Time Machine - Something capable of transporting a person backward or forward in time.

About halfway to Lewes Beach, Delaware, a song jolts me out of my highway trance and transports me Adelphi University. The corner dorm room, room 250, in Earle Hall. Distant Early Warning by Rush. A song that used to be played once per week but has for some time now been buried under lawn care, and diapers, and spreadsheets. There’s a twenty-year-old lanky junior in that dorm room methodically putting on his uniform. It’s my turn to pitch that day and so this song, as it has since senior year of high school, must accompany the routine. The song has absolutely zero baseball meaning but pitchers are notoriously superstitious. It had played a significant role in winning a key High School playoff game and therefore would, from that day on, be counted on to improve the odds throughout college. The vision comes to me as vividly as if I am actually there. And along with the vision, I can almost feel that familiar sense of excitement and nervousness that was also part of the routine.

Since there was an inadequate breakfast before leaving for the two-hour drive, a slight detour to McDonald’s would be in order. Two of my boys were with me for the weekend. They were patient but undoubtedly hungry. Three large fries would tide all of us over for a while. One is placed in the cup holder next to me, one is handed to Michael who was in the passenger seat, and one passed into the back, where John was reaching out with a smile. It wasn’t always that way. I’m transported to the backyard of my long since departed New Jersey home. Standing in front of a little boy, strapped in a backyard swing, and using McDonald’s fries to coax a word, any word, that damn elusive first word which is a herculean achievement for those with autism. It was anything but a smile then. Anger, despair, frustration, screams, and tears. And then……it happened. The words! Those elusive first words! It is as vivid as if it just happened. As is the relief, joy, hope, smiles, and tears.

The beach was hot, and the tide was coming in. Michael and John, not ones to sit still for very long, decided to explore and see what they could find. I fell into another trance as my playlist blared from my phone which was expertly placed in the front pocket of the cooler. Their return, after I don’t really know how long, gave me the second trance-ending jolt of the day. Pockets full of pebbles, shells, and other pocket-sized things one would find on the beach, were dropped on the towel next to me. As I stare at the small pile of souvenirs, I am suddenly transported to the dining table in my apartment. Sitting with John as he carefully, and proudly creates another work of art to be displayed prominently in the place of his choosing. I can see vividly the sense of satisfaction he will have as he completes his masterpiece and places it by the TV next to the other trinkets I have accumulated over the years. I am quite confident that will be exactly the place where it will go.

We are surrounded by time machines. They are out there. Everywhere. Waiting for us to find them, to notice them, as we make our way through the day. Taking us on journeys backward and forward in time. Reliving past experiences, good and bad as well as preparing us for future experiences, good and bad. But not only do we find them, we also create them. And, sometimes, we give them to others.

About halfway home from Lewes Beach, Delaware a snore from the passenger seat jolts me out of my highway trance and transports me to a room, in a house, that I don’t recognize. There are two middle-aged men there. One is reading something on his phone and the other has decided to inspect a small vase that is sitting next to the TV. It is filled with pebbles, shells, and other pocket-sized things.

“Hey, John. Remember the day we went with Dad to the beach and you made him bring home all those rocks?”

  • Joe

My hero spent last weekend with me. You know my hero by now.

I picked John up Friday afternoon so we could have dinner together. He had a little more bounce in his step as he grabbed his duffle bag with his clothes for the weekend. His smile resonated with me as he charged out the door and marched towards the car.

“Do you have your iPad?” I called to him. He stopped in his tracks and turned with his smile.

“Yes.” And so, the weekend could officially begin.

The short five-minute drive to my apartment was accompanied by the continuous news about a man, a black man, that was killed by a rogue, white, police officer while three others just stood by and watched. So disgusting. So terrible. So sad. There is obviously so much more that needs to be addressed to improve race relations in our country and it really is taking way too long. I hung on the words blaring through the radio of there needing to be a conversation. “A conversation?” I thought. It seems like all we have is conversations. I shook my head thinking of the never-ending “conversations” and so-called “strategies” and the lack of actual “doing”. I felt the tension build inside me as I peeked in the rear-view mirror. John was smiling as he stared out the window. Watching the world go by but not really understanding how the world was going by. We parked in the garage, he grabbed his duffle bag and led me to the elevator. His smile resonated with me as we waited to go upstairs.

“Are we going to have fun this weekend?” I asked as the door opened and he darted inside.

“Yes.” And the door closed to take us up to our pizza party dinner.

This weekend was going to be our first fishing trip of the year. We made it to a great spot that I was sure was going to yield all the excitement John would be able to handle. Three and a half hours later I was down to my last worm with no fish to show for it. John helps me by holding the rod as I bait the hook. I tried to sound as positive as I could that this would be the lucky worm. He really didn’t seem to mind anyway as his eyes were fixed on a pair of butterflies that were dancing nearby. My expert baiting skilled were highlighted the awkward way I fumbled with the worm which soon slipped from my fingers. I thanked the fishing gods that it didn’t fall in the water and hastily bent over to pick it up. What might have been the sound of a spring breeze through the trees was most likely those same fishing gods laughing as my glasses, ever so secure on the top of my head, fell off into the lake and sank as slowly as Jack Dawson from Titanic. My internal tension built as I turned to look at John. His smile resonated with me and I took that as the sign that it was time to admit defeat and go.

“Did you have fun fishing today?” I asked as we made the trek back to the car.

“Yes.” And we loaded everything into the trunk and headed home.

Deviled eggs are an all-time favorite. Easy to make and damn tasty to eat. But the eggs do take a bit of time to hard boil. So, while waiting, John relaxed with his iPad and I opened a beer to catch up on the news. Visions of riots and looting dominated the airwaves. Innocent people being attacked. Small, family-owned, businesses being destroyed. Genuine protests seeking progress being drowned out and overtaken by criminals seeking anarchy. I felt my tension build yet again, and my frustration grow, at the horrible sights on every channel I turned to. So much destruction. So much anger. So much hatred. I looked over at John who was captivated with touring the earth on Google Maps. His smile resonated with me as I realized that he really doesn’t understand hatred. He doesn’t understand race. He just lives in this world and he is happy with it.

“Do you know what kind of eggs we are having tonight?” I asked as I got up to start peeling.

“Yes.” The typical one-word answer but I wanted more this time.

“But what kind though?”

“Debilled.” And I was more than ok with having debilled eggs too.

I dropped John off on Sunday night. He still has school for a couple more weeks and is doing his best with virtual learning. I walked him in and said hello to everyone. As I caught up with his mom, John opened his duffle bag, took his iPad and charger, and started to go upstairs. I felt a sense of harsh reality at how fast the weekend flew by. With hardly any words he, as usual, had an impact on me and I can only hope I had an impact on him. I called to him as he was halfway upstairs. He stopped and turned. His smile resonated with me as I asked him the only question that I needed to get an answer to at that moment.

“Did you have a good weekend?” I waited, and hoped, for the typical one-word answer.

“Yes.” And his smile stuck with me as he disappeared into his room.

I can’t wait to see John’s smile again.

I can’t wait till we are all smiling again.

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  • Joe

Just when I think I have all the answers..........

Last week we kicked around the concept of the only thing we truly own.

I hope you had a chance to reflect on time. Your time. How you spend it. How you use it. How you appreciate it.

I certainly did. Since last week my diet was a little better. I exercised a little more. I tried to communicate a little more effectively. I was controlling my time. Just like I advised.

But then my phone rang. It was Mom. And she had something to say.

She said last week’s blog made her think.

“Good”, I replied. “That’s the whole point of it”.

She told me about how she is trying to keep busy nowadays. Making new recipes. Working in the garden. Walking on the treadmill. Staying in touch with her sisters every day.

I felt damn good as I thought about the impact my wisdom had made on her. I’m a pretty smart and insightful guy.

And then she brought me back to earth.

She disagreed that she had full control over her time.


She told me that when she read the blog, she thought she didn’t own all of her time. Her thoughts went to the times that she wished she had back. The times she spent being a mom to two little boys.

Two little boys playing stickball in the street in front of a Staten Island duplex.

Two little boys making a mess of the basement and ignoring the calls for dinner.

Two little boys trading the beef for the vegetables in the stew that she made……much to the dismay of their father.

Two little boys fighting as two little boys are supposed to do. And then laughing and playing ten minutes later.

Two little boys who are now all grown up and no longer there.

She told me that if she truly owned her time she would love to go back to those days. To be able to re-live that time once more. But she can’t.

I tried to come up with a reasonable defense. “But that just goes to show that you did make the best use of that time. The point is to always make sure you remember that before your time is in the past.”

She wasn’t buying it. And now I wasn’t sure I was either.

Last week I made sure to check the definition of what it meant to own something. If we owned our time that means we have control over our time.

You would think Mr. Brilliant here would take a moment to check the definition of the only thing that we truly owned. Of course, I didn’t.

So, I googled and there it was.

Time - The indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole

Now I was the one who was thinking. If time is represented by the past and future too, then we don’t have full control. (If you happen to have a flux capacitor, I’d like to borrow it)

So now what. We can’t go back to re-live or change the past. And we can try to plan and prepare for the future, but I know of a little virus who would say that your plans and preparations will only go so far.

If I don’t own time, then what do I truly own?

But maybe what I told my Mom was right. Maybe what I own is not time but whether I make the best use of time.

I can’t change the past. It’s done. But I can certainly learn from it. I can certainly enjoy the memories I have from it. I can certainly teach others based on the experiences, good or bad, I gained from it.

I can’t change the future. Whatever it will be, it’s coming. But I can certainly plan as best as I can for it. And I can certainly respond to the many surprises it will have for me, good or bad, as best as I can.

And like I told Mom, I can maximize the present before this time becomes another part of the past.

My fingers type away.

Thanks, Mom.

Until Next Time..........

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