I have an old clock with a pendulum. The clock loses time but the pendulum swings tirelessly. I have been watching that pendulum for several hours – it is a reminder that time marches inexorably forward even when you think the moment you are in, this moment; will never end.
My Dad has just come out of surgery to remove his prostate. It looks like everything went well and so far, there have been no complications. It is a huge relief. Of course, he now has the recovery process to face but with a bit of care and rest he should be fine.
There is another clock with a pendulum in my Dad’s hospital room. A tiny one, you can barely see it, but it marks the passing of time, nonetheless. I know my Dad will take comfort in watching its motion.
My Dad was confident all would be well until he got to the hospital yesterday afternoon for the pre-op schedule. There’s always that moment, isn’t there? Where reality bites.
My Mum was chatting to the nurses and my Dad whispered to me : ‘I don’t want to die yet.’
His surgeon has performed a thousand successful operations. My Dad was worried he would be the one in 1000 whose surgery was unsuccessful.
Natural fears. I tried to be the voice of reason telling him he wasn’t going to die, that all would be well; but his doubt planted a little seed in my own mind and I began to worry.
We do fear it, don’t we? Our own mortality. Even if we say we don’t. Even if we have strong religious convictions. Even if we have a strong sense of spirituality. That thought that comes unbidden that says: one day I’m going to be gone; it’s a sobering one.
My Dad left a note for my Mum. On her pillow. It read as if he wasn’t coming back, as if he had given up any hope of recovery. My Mum was thrown into a panic – she loves him, has done so for 50 years; but I didn’t realise until today how fully she relies on him.
‘He was just scared, just nervous,’ I said. ‘Surgery like this is daunting. His judgement was momentarily skewed.’
‘Take it one hour at a time,’ I said. ‘If you make it through one hour, you can make it through another.’
Each time that pendulum swings another second has gone by. It doesn’t take long for one second to become ten, twenty, sixty, six hundred. The east swing, the west swing. Time bounds and rebounds into every corner of the room.
The tick of the clock. There is a surety in it. When things are in flux, it’s there, as dependable as an old friend, forming spaces that we can fill up with the makings of our lives.
It doesn’t take long for the doubts of night to fade into the sweet song of morning. Maybe time actually is the language of the gods.