No, it's not January 1 when we typically consider time’s passage. It's July already. However, I recently celebrated another birthday and for some reason have found myself somewhat wistful about the past.

 

On my birthday, I missed my parents something awful. It was the first birthday I truly celebrated without my mother. Not that our family went nuts over each other's special day (we didn't), but this year I knew I couldn't pick up the phone and call her and say, "Thanks for the gift of life, Mom!" as I used to do. She always got a kick out of my calling her to wish her a big thank you on my birthday.

 

I was her first child. As all firstborns do, I was the one who forever changed her life in ways she never could have imagined. As an older adult, she once confessed her only regret was that she didn’t attend college. Instead, she married and raised six children out on a farm. I still don't know whether to feel guilty or grateful. She always claimed we were the center of her universe and that she never would have traded us for anything. Even in her confused state, all she wanted after our father died was to go back to Ohio from their Florida retirement residence so she could be home and see her children. Note that she didn't ask to come to Kansas to be with her firstborn. I chuckle.

 

I then considered my own children who have long been grown and gone from home.

 

Memories of our togetherness and the times when I happily knew nearly every detail of their sweet little lives seemed only to reinforce the deep chasm of our necessary adult separation. I felt exquisite pain in missing my little children. Looking into the rear-view mirror, I realized how fast my days with them vaporized. Where did my babies go? Another birthday, another reflection of time's odd enigma. Time is sometimes cruel.

 

Then there's the recent insatiable desire for us to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. Could it really be 50 years? Good grief! I watched the events from the living room floor with Dad, Mom and my five little brothers and sisters crowded around the TV.

 

Neil Armstrong hailed from my home state of Ohio and so it was even more meaningful to us. We were enthralled. We were proud of our country that had captivated the world by meeting President Kennedy's audacious 1961 goal of reaching and returning safely from the moon before the end of the decade. America did it and honestly, it seems like yesterday. Time is a trickster.

 

Since my last birthday, my dear husband has had a rough year. He's been faced with increasing health challenges. In early April, he simply collapsed when standing by my side as we viewed the Wichita Art Museum's Georgia O'Keefe exhibit.

 

He was badly injured, but the diagnosis finally came with the trauma center's head CT scan. The second night of his hospitalization I went home to sleep, shower and change clothes. Climbing into an empty bed, I wondered whether our lives had entered a point of no return.

 

I've been through several serious health scares with him over the years and am now convinced he is part-cat… living nine lives. I hope his recent surgery will make the difference. According to the neurosurgeon, he should improve over the next 6-12 months. I can evaluate his recovery at my next birthday in 2020. It feels good to look ahead. Time is an encourager.

 

My sister once told me as we had lunch at a Wichita restaurant before her flight home, "Don't be sad. The next time you eat lunch here, sit in that same chair and remember that only time separates us."

 

I've looked up the origin of that statement, but can't find it. I honestly don't know if she really thought it up or if she remembered it from another context and simply re-cycled it. It’s a haunting quote and one that we often recite to each other when we're separated by distance, but not time.

 

In thinking about my dear late parents, my little children, Apollo 11, and the life my husband and I used to have, I keep in mind that time is the only thing truly separating us. Time is a mysterious marvel.

 

I’m grateful for today and eager to face it, whatever it may bring. But I promise myself to remember Auld Lang Syne for all its riches even in the middle of July and even while eyeing tomorrow.

 

— Val Gleason is president and CEO of Newton Medical Center.