Pondering the ticktock of time

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller use this space to offer their views on everyday issues.


Eli is ticktocking just a few feet away under the glow of a silent television. He's asleep there in his swing, rocking in his little time machine. Six weeks old, now, the little guy.

It's quiet now, here in the bedroom, just the steady clicking to my left and the humming AC on my right to keep me company.

I'm awake, a few minutes before 10, because I have to be. The column is due tomorrow, a Wednesday, my busiest day at the office. But this is good time, valuable time, to let the ticktocking sink in, to let the column force me to think about where time and life are taking me.

I often look at my boys, all three of them, and wonder things, deep things, perhaps inconsequential things. I wonder what Eli dreams about. Bottles, maybe. A warm bath. His mother's smile. I sometimes envy those dreams, so simple and pleasant.

Adult dreams are never so pure. When sleeping, I frequently dream of economic bitterness or of various personal insecurities I suppress during waking hours. While awake, my dreams unfortunately often revolve around financial acquisitions, most of them honorable. Callie and I are starting to think about buying a house next year. The bills lying here next to my keyboard are reminders of the ticks and tocks that have to pass before we can legitimately do so. For the time being, Callie and I remain patient. Our house is a bit too small for three boys, and we dream of a much more comfortable place to raise them.

I watch Dawson, now 16 months, waddle around, jibber-jabbering. He's so easily amused. All smiles when I walk through the door. Generous with hugs and kisses. The "so-big," patty-cake and high-five games never get old. I sometimes envy his simple pleasures. On some days when he cackles, I ponder my own laughter habits. I should laugh more. Today, as I rewind the ticktocks, I recall laughing a few times, though some of them unfortunately at others' expense. News people often laugh at obscure things that really aren't all that funny. I find that lately my best laughter has been spent at Dawson's expense. The wonders of innocent curiosity and the expression of newfound communication methods (even if he is protesting) provide more comic relief than anything found on television.

Then there's Drew. I don't get to watch him as much. Even when he's in my custody, he's often visiting friends or in his room with the Xbox. But I do watch him closely. I watch his expressions, his body language, subtle things that give a glimpse into the young man he is about to become. I see potential, great potential, in his eyes, in his wit, in his energy. I envy Drew's energy. I watch him fly around those bases and know that at that moment when he's rounding third, he is blissfully responsible for exactly two things: touching home plate and then celebrating with his teammates. I don't know what is more satisfying -- watching Drew succeed or watching him defeat failure. I think the latter.

It wasn't long ago when Drew was ticktocking in his own baby swing. I don't remember being as tired 11 years ago as I am now. It'll be just a matter of months before the little swing gets put away. Then Dawson and Eli will both be walking, then playing ball, then reading and multiplying and going on dates. I'll think about the little swing during those milestones. And I'll wonder where the time went.

Callie Clark Miller is a special publications writer for the Southeast Missourian. Bob Miller is Southeast Missourian editor. Reach them at cmiller@semissourian.com and bmiller@semissourian.com.

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