My six-year-old grandson seriously asked me one morning, “Grandma Linda, have you ever time-traveled?”
I don’t believe anyone had ever asked me that question before, but it really got me to thinking about time travel. I remember the first time I read H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine and saw the original movie. The Time Traveler observes that time travel is a fourth dimension and “only another way of looking at Time.”
Then, of course, time travel was common on Star Trek. I remember one episode when Captain Kirk and the crew from the Enterprise went back in time to find themselves in a gunfight against the Earp brothers at the O.K. Corral. They survived when Mr. Spock realized that the time travel was an illusion in their minds.
We travel to the past in our dreams and in sudden flashes of remembrance. Travel to the future can be through daydreams, plans, goals, or intuition. Some claim to see the future in a crystal ball, but I’ve never had that advantage. Jim’s grandma used to see the future in coffee grounds...guess that’s a version of reading tea leaves. That her coffee had grounds in the bottom is an indication of how strong it was. I was always afraid to have her read my coffee grounds because she once told a neighbor that her daughter would “come home in a box.” And she did after a car wreck.
Anniversaries are a time that make people time travel. Whether it is a personal anniversary or historical anniversary, dates can trigger realistic memory travel. With the fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, I’ve about overloaded on specials about the shooting in Dallas and the mysteries that linger. Today as a nation, many will collectively time travel to November 22, 1963. We will think about where we were and what we were doing when we heard about the assassination. I heard the news in the hallway at school. We sat on the floor listening to the radio as the tragedy unfolded. I was telling my granddaughter a few weeks ago that we were out of school and at home watching TV when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald.
Before dementia, Jim was a much more effective time traveler than I will ever be. He remembered people, places, and dates from his childhood with more clarity than I could remember the previous week.
One of the cruelties of dementia is how it erases memories. In the earlier stages, long-term memory isn’t affected as much as short-term memory, and it seems the person with dementia has effectively time traveled and, in fact, seems to be living in a different time. Once an elderly lady who was in the nursing home with Jim told me that she had to get home because her dad would be really mad that she was out after dark.
Alzheimer’s is like entering a time machine that zooms into the past, wiping out the present and future. Eventually, plaques and tangles jam up the moving parts and the fabulous time machine malfunctions leaving the traveler stranded.
So, the answer is “yes.” I do time travel. I don’t need a machine with whirling dials that I have to enter to travel back and forth in time. Any little nanosecond will do. All I have to do is rev up the fabulous time machine located between my ears to retrieve another place and time. As far as the future, those travels are flashes of “coming attractions” found in the realm of imagination. Yes, I still look forward to the future and would rather travel forward than backward any day.
The mind is the real time machine, and it really is just another way of looking at time.
Copyright (c) November 2013 by L.S. Fisher