Sunday, February 28, 2010

Time Passages

One-sixth of year one of decade two of the 21st century will be in the books by day's end. How time flies. Well, maybe not so much when someone breaks it down in a way that you have never considered doing yourself - and with good reason. Whether viewing it head on or in the abstract, the result is the same: two down, ten to go for 2010.

Time is a concept that fascinates and infuriates me. It is something that all of us are taught how to measure at a young age. We learn how to tell time it seems shortly after our head pops free of the uterus and are immediately impressed by its power and the control it exerts over our life ("OK, according to my schedule it is ten minutes until I get fed again and twelve minutes until my next poop"). And yet it is something that all of us - to a degree - allow to get the better of us from time to time and also to get away from us completely.

Abuse of time is not - in my experience - an age-related phenomenon. By that I mean that since ignorance is bliss, smiles come "one size fits all" regardless of age or presumptive level of maturity. Sadly I was reminded of that fact yesterday while attending the Region 3 wrestling tournament in Union.

Margaret's nephew Frank has had (in my admittedly biased opinion) a phenomenal season from his spot as the 160 pounder on the Middlesex wrestling team. If I read the paper correctly this morning - and if the information contained within it was correct (two huge IFs right up front) then Frank's win last night in the Region 3 Championship at 160 pounds - a tight, well-contested affair against the deservedly well regarded Dennis Carroll of Roselle Park - raised his record to 30-1. Upon reading that this morning I was struck by how much his record as a junior 160 pound wrestler reminded me of my record as a freshman 108 pound wrestler back in the day.......save for the multiple victories and the single defeat the two are practically mirror images of one another.

To win the Region 3 title yesterday, Frank had to wrestle three times. His first match of the day was uneventful as he defeated again the young man he had defeated in the District 12 final one week earlier. His last match of the day was the championship match against Carroll, during which for six minutes the one pushed the other with everything he could muster. And when it was over the two - both of whom appeared just a tad tired from where I was sitting - ended things the way they had started them - with a hearty handshake and a smile.

It was the day's middle match for Frank that caused me to awaken this morning wondering about the vagaries of time. He wrestled the #1 seeded wrestler, who for reasons known only to him and perhaps his coaches, showed up not looking to wrestle but to fight. In high-school wrestling the two wrestlers meet at the center of the mat and before the ref whistles them into action they shake hands. Not in yesterday's semi-final match. Instead of shaking hands with Frank, his opponent lunged forward and hit him in the face in an apparent effort to intimidate or rattle him. Not only did that effort fail but it cost Frank's opponent a point.

The two kids were actually able to engage in wrestling for about thirty to forty-five seconds until the opponent - either because he had misplaced his cool or he continued to erroneously believe that he was going to intimidate Frank - fouled Frank again and thereafter (after the referee blew his whistle to stop the action) tossed Frank into the temporary barricades that are erected around the mats during these big tournaments to keep the fans and the wrestlers separated from one another. At this point, having seen enough the referee disqualified Frank's opponent. The kid who was disqualified apparently is a senior, which means after working hard for four years and standing only six minutes away from a chance to wrestle for a State title, he voluntarily threw the "Kill" switch on his career.

And of course - as is too often the case in these scenarios - having self-immolated on the mat, the wrestler who was disqualified and various other folks from his school and his family then went after Frank after the match ended. Fortunately - and due in large part to the good work of the folks who ran the venue and of the members of the Union P.D. who were on site - while there was a considerable amount of shouting, soon after the wanna-be melee started, it was only the shouting that remained. And better still, several hours after the stupidity subsided, Frank returned to the mat and completed his day's work.

As adults among our nondelegable duties should be teaching our children well about the importance of using one's time and one's energy wisely. We have not only a finite amount of both but an indeterminate amount as well. We know not when whoever it is who determines such things will tap us on the shoulder and tell us it is time to go, which one supposes underscores the importance of making judicious use of the time that is allotted to us.

Yet too often we do not. And worse yet, as parents not only do we not make judicious use of our time we encourage our kids to waste their own. I reckon that this morning Frank's semi-final opponent and his family shall gather around the breakfast table still pissed off about yesterday's events and still pathetically looking to assign blame for what happened to him to everyone but the only one who deserves it. I hope however - for his own sake - that as this young man makes his own way in the world he holds out what he did yesterday - to Frank and to himself - as a blueprint for his own children to follow as a "How Not To....." guide. And if he does that, then perhaps the day of his life that he wasted yesterday, which has been irretrievably assigned to the dustbin of history, will not have been wasted after all. Rather it will simply be a day that could have been better spent.

Hours are like diamonds, don't let them waste. But unlike diamonds, hours are not forever. Even if the decisions we make with how we spend them last with us for at least that long.

-AK

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