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Carnett: Marking the passage of time my own way

April 28, 2014|By Jim Carnett

We humans measure our threescore and 10 in disparate ways.

I had a short-timer's calendar in the U.S. Army, marking off my final 365 days of service. Each morning I'd dutifully scratch off another day.

The count of Monte Cristo painstakingly marked the passage of time on the granite walls of his prison cell.

For many, time measurement is simply the annual accrual of birthdays. Like logs at the bottom of a sluice, they pile up.

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For others, it's the inexorable drip-drip-drip of TGIFs. For some Europeans, it's the repetitive ringing of church bells. For many, time is diurnal and circadian — based upon sunrises and sunsets.

For Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, it was the cyclic rise and fall of the sea: "The tide rises, the tide falls / The twilight darkens, the curlew calls / Along the sea-sands damp and brown / The traveler hastens toward the town / And the tide rises, the tide falls."

Perhaps we delineate our lives by sports moments or memorable seasons. Remember 49er quarterback Joe Montana's 28-point comeback victory over New Orleans in 1980? (Ah, 34 years ago.) Or L.A. Dodger Kirk Gibson's pinch-hit, walk-off home run to beat Oakland in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series? (Twenty-six seasons ago.)

The wise King Solomon measured life by different sorts of seasons. He wrote: "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven."

We each tabulate our seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years and decades differently, but tabulate them we do. And we're not alone. I'd wager some celestial actuary stands at the eternal gates — ledger in hand — adding up columns of figures and making notes. Perhaps there's an ETA printed alongside each name.

For me a means for assessing the passage of time is the tried and true "Significant Female in my Household Turning 40" method.

I realize that sounds bizarre, so permit me to explain. In my case it has to do with four of the most venerated females in my life reaching a certain numerical milestone. Try this: "Where was I when (insert the appropriate venerated name) turned 40?"

My grandmother turned 40 on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 1946. I was there to be sure, though I must confess, I have no recollection of the occasion. For me, it was a washout. I was three days shy of turning a year old.

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