Living in the present

"What time is it really?"

That's what our son, Thomas, wanted to know on a road trip across the United States back in 1989.

We crossed an invisible line, and suddenly we were in a different time zone, asking "but what time is it really?"

I remember when the kids were even younger and a snippet from Carly Simon's song "Anticipation" popped into my head one day, I realized it applied to me, to us: "These are the good old days."

I had my doubts.

The children were running us ragged. We worried about the tight household budget, worried about work, an infinite to-do list and on and on. Even so, I thought, at some point down the road will I consider that moment "the good old days"?

But now I do, because they were.

In the blink of an eye, the children are grown. The house is quiet. My schedule is casual. My expenses minimal. My darling Monica is gone, taken by cancer.

I don't kid myself that those days were perfect. There are no perfect times on earth, although, thanks be to God, there can be near-perfect moments. Seen in the rearview mirror of life, they sparkle and shine. They bring comfort and joy even as they stand in stark contrast to change and loss.

I see the children often. The grandkids are a hoot. My parents have passed away, but all my siblings are alive and well, and we laugh a lot when we get together.

I have good friends. Good health. I have work and want to continue doing it as long as I can and have a good life. But it is not a perfect life. There are good days but not perfect days. But I have now. Right now. I have here. Right here. I have life on earth.

In modern language, I'm called to be present, to be mindful. I can't let myself become so obsessed thinking about a future without Monica that I fail to appreciate and use the blessings I have right here, right now. And I can't allow myself to become lost in, obsessed with the past.

The truth is that at every age and every stage of a person's life, there are blessings and challenges. And with the passing of time and the grace of God, sometimes it's possible to see the deepest blessings have their roots in the harshest challenges.

Sometimes it's possible to notice one constant through it all: Emmanuel, God with us.

Dodds and his late wife, Monica, were the founders of the Friends of St. John the Caregiver (fsjc.org). Bill is the editor of My Daily Visitor magazine and his latest novels are Pope Bob and The World's Funniest Atheist.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015