In the fall of 1966, I was an incoming freshman at the State University of New York College at Brockport. Official arrival day was Saturday, but I had gotten there on Friday night and decided to take a walk around the village. As you could probably guess, it didn’t take very long: this store, that store, small store, smaller store, bar, bar, bar and the movie theater.
The message on the marquee of the cinema was “Welcome Class of 1970.” It stopped me dead in my tracks — 1970 seemed so far away, sounded so exotic. Turns out that would be the last time I ever had that feeling. As clichÃ©s go, the one about time passing quicker and quicker the older you get is a doozy.
One minute I’m in high school singing along with The Who, “Hope I die before I get old!” Then what seems like it was only a little while later, I spend part of my 64th birthday considering how close that particular wish came to being granted, and the rest of it realizing The Beatles’ “When I’m 64” no longer needs any speculation on my part.
Toward the end of the 1970s, I directed a production of the Anthony Newley-Leslie Bricusse musical, “Stop the World I Want to Get Off.” Nice little musical; couple of songs most people can sing along with — “What Kind of Fool am I?” and “Once in a Lifetime.” But as God is my witness, I did it only because I thought the script might have some pointers on how to do it — stop the world, that is. I know. Whaaat? Maybe you had to be there, although I was there, and I still have no clue what I was thinking.
Some 35 years after that, I’m still stumbling along treating life as if it was my own personal chew toy, telling anyone who’ll listen that I’m blessed and have been given everything I ever needed and then some. Oh lucky man, indeed.
But I was thinking about this whole time-rushing-by thing: What could it hurt to ask for things to slow down just a wee bit. Whaaat? I guess we can all say the next bit in unison: “Be careful what you ask for.” Yeah, well, there is that.
Turns out being diagnosed with multiple myeloma will put a cramp in the whole time-is-rushing-by thing, in a couple of ways.
First, with so little solid information to go on, my Wednesday oncologist appointments became really important to me and my wife, Sheri. No longer was every day a variation on the same theme as the day before and the day after. No longer did I have to ask what day of the week it was, because each day held a position relative to Wednesday: Monday was two days from Wednesday, for example. Each day mattered and no longer did the days stretch out in an endless path. We were going Wednesday to Wednesday, and no longer was I left to wonder where the time had gone. I knew, in painstakingly slow detail, exactly where it had gone.
The second way was that almost everyone around me continued on the Crazy Train — as they should — so busy trying to deal with their now that, say, four weeks down the road, they would look back and find gaps in their time line, and not have a clue what had previously filled the now-empty spaces.
The whole thing became moot (which is just another way of saying it became so much blah, blah, blah) at my latest appointment. Because of the nature of the disease, and our treatment of it, the oncologist told us I wouldn’t see him again for close to six weeks. In the best be-careful-what-you-ask-for tradition, before I got sick, I would have said, “Six weeks? Pish tosh. They’ll go by before you know it.” Ummmm. No they won’t.
But they will go by, each day lasting the mandatory 24 hours, though I’m pretty sure some will seem much longer while very few, if any, will seem shorter. Then we’ll have test results and go on to the next phase of my recovery.
When I was about 15, and had been in this country from Scotland for little more than a year, I went to Playland in Rye, N.Y. (where they filmed the end of the movie “Big”) with friends from our church youth group. I had never even seen a roller coaster in person before, so I trus…trus…trusted them when they said it would be fun, especially if I sat in the very front seat. I guess it didn’t register at the time that everyone else seemed to be sitting at least 10 rows back.
Yeah, the whole thing was horrible, but there was an actual worst moment. At the very top of this coaster was a tunnel, long enough to hold the entire coaster in complete darkness. This is where my front-seat position really mattered, because when we popped out of the tunnel, at the coaster’s highest point, we dropped straight down … straight down. I’m not too proud to admit I did some serious screaming, I can assure you.
I’m not 15 anymore, but still … As I begin this particular part of my journey, I can see where serious screaming remains one of my better options.
Jim Arnold is a copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. He was born in Scotland and came to America with his parents in 1963, when he was 14 years old. He and his wife, Sheri, moved to Maine in 1998. He has two daughters, Jennifer and Alison.