Time is an ocean of intangibility flowing all around us. It is imperceptible to every human sense except vision. We contemplate time whenever we look ourselves in the mirror as we rise in the morning. We contemplate time whenever we meet other people, especially those we have not seen in a long while. We contemplate time whenever we walk through the streets and pass by a construction site. We cannot smell it, nor hear it. We cannot touch it, nor taste it. But we can always see it, in barbershops, schools, hospitals and cemeteries. We see it everywhere.
This explains my lifelong fascination with the ocean. Throughout my years, never have I encountered a more appropriate metaphor for time than the ocean itself. Always in constant rhythmic motion, a primeval source of life, but also a graveyard for all that resides within its domain. Capable of plodding, relentless destruction of the most obdurate rocks. Capable of sudden, violent obliteration of the most impertinent structures. An elemental force of nature disrespected at our own peril.
I do not know if my grandfather had a similar appreciation for the ocean, but he certainly had the same respect for time. I saw it in his eyes the day he passed away. Shortly after I arrived home from college during Winter Break, he complained of severe chest pains. In a moment of desperation, my immediate family and I carried him to the car and drove him to the hospital. There was no time for an ambulance.
My last remembrance was seeing him lying helplessly on a hospital bed, unable to move or speak. With his frozen left-hand, he still clutched my index finger as we waited for the medical staff to arrive. We waited and waited. It was early in the morning and the sun invaded our privacy. It was a normal day for most people, not for us. His brown eyes were wide-opened, but as he silently stared at me, all I could see was that ocean of intangibility.
He was a fearless man. In his time, having survived Franco, Hitler, Stalin and two military dictatorships. He travelled extensively, lived for his family, set the example of a hardworking, honest life and valued his faith. He had found great meaning in life, but letting go of it was worse than dying. In the end, all he wanted was more time. In the end, all we wanted was more time.
But I wondered how much of it had been wasted. If we are entirely honest with ourselves, we must admit that despite our best efforts, a considerable portion of our lives is spent waiting. Waiting for someone, waiting for something, waiting for an opportunity, waiting for time. During those moments, even if walls do not constrain our liberty, we are still imprisoned. The greatest tragedy of serving time is that time never serves you. Finding true meaning in life is all that releases us from our cells. This ocean of intangibility is always flowing all around us.