File photo for editorials by Scott Tibballs (Scott Tibballs/The Free Press)

Column: Pondering lost time

Since it seemingly came off the pages of daily newspapers and out into our homes from our tablets and devices, the debate of who is most deeply affected by the pandemic has never been deep below the surface.

For the entire world, the clock has been ticking on the COVID-19 experience for about a year, depending on when life as we knew it ground to a halt.

As the pandemic has dragged on into its second year, I’ve begun thinking even more about how for most people, the effects of the pandemic will be measured in time, and not work or illness.

For me, time is something of which I have a lot. Hitting ‘pause’ on parts of my life does little. It’s annoying, but it doesn’t destroy dreams or change my future – but for people who are older, time has a much stronger exchange rate when it comes to value.

Both of my parents are getting into their mid-70s. They have been working or studying their entire lives.

A life of uninterrupted work for someone born in the ’40s should be paying off with a raging retirement of cruise ships, wineries and grandkids (sorry mom) around about now, but thanks to the pandemic, that’s all on hold.

As my dad somewhat fatalistically reminds me every now and then, both of my parents only have about a decade of high-quality life left on their plates. Considering my grandfather is 98 and still sharp enough to tell me to only call him when I have something new to talk about, it’s not a stretch to say they have even longer.

My parents aren’t at the stage of waiting for death, and I hope they have a long time yet, but recently my mother said she was sad about “losing time,” and it snapped my attention on what a year or two years means to her, versus what it means to me.

Time to travel the world, time to spend with her friends, time to share with her children and her granddaughter (who will be almost two by the time I get to meet her). Even without harsh lockdown measures, the world she’s lived and worked in for her whole life has changed into something else – something smaller, more expensive and with fewer possibilities and experiences.

Not only that, the pandemic itself is robbing her, and people her age, of years that she earned the right to enjoy.

I look at a clock and know that in a few years, my brain will have written over the pandemic as if it was a trans-oceanic plane trip: Long while you’re on it, but forgettable.

When you’re at an age where you’re watching the weeks, months and years tick by and thinking about the end of your life being around the corner, a pandemic only taking “a few years” doesn’t bring any comfort or reassurance.

One or two years of no travel and limited human contact isn’t just a blip – it’s a massive chunk of lost potential, and my heart breaks for my parents, and people like them. I wish I could give them the time back.

As we cross into year two of the pandemic, with extended travel restrictions, fluctuating infection numbers, unreliable vaccine deliveries and health orders that stop and start, the clock might be ticking slowly for some, but for others time is racing by. Every delay, every setback isn’t an inconvenience, it’s a robbery.

I think a lot differently about each passing hour, every day I cross off my calendar, every week and month gone by when I consider how valuable time is to those that can’t just stop in their tracks and know tomorrow will come like it always has, because nobody will get the time back.

-Scott Tibballs

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