Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Time Bomb Ticking

It was a long, busy weekend.

Wonderful wedding of the baby of one of my kindergarten friends.  Hosted the brunch for 60 the next morning, went home and packed, got 5 hours sleep, left for the airport in a storm.

Back to LA in time to help my baby pack for a study-abroad trip to Europe. Took her to the airport, after rushing by Target for last-minute necessities. Errands, then back to babysit James while his parents went to their small-group gathering.

He’s always funny when he hasn’t seen me for a while. Plays tricks. Laughs a lot. Flirts up a storm with me. Makes me fall in love all over again.

We walked down to the Farmer’s Market and picked up some fresh fruits and veggies, then came back to Munchkin Manor. Still on Georgia-time, I could hardly keep my eyes open.

I will spare you the details of why a bath was necessitated, but there was just no other way to deal with a potty situation. While James splashed away and talked to himself and his bathtoys, I lay down on the bed in the next room. (Don’t worry: I’d hear him if he drowned.)

He had a grand old time in there, splashing and laughing. I rested my eyes for a little bit.

Until I decided he was probably turning into a prune.

But he wouldn’t get out. I’d pull the plug on the water, and he’d stop it back up.  So I just sat there on the toilet for a while, too tired to argue.

He pulled the shower curtain closed and hid from me. Then he slowly peeked around it and gave me the most utterly adorable, delicious little grin before diving back into the water.

And a pang of déjà vu hit my heart so hard I almost fell off the toilet:

For a millisecond, he was his mother, 26 years ago.

Now this is a little strange, because he looks pretty much (exactly) like his daddy. But every now and then, I’ll see an expression on that child’s face that came straight down the maternal line.

I have a faded picture of his mommy in a bathtub with that very same delicious little grin on her face.

I’m not sure why it hit me so hard. Maybe because I was tired and jet-lagged. Maybe because I’d been with kindergarten friends over the weekend. Maybe because I’d just put my baby on a plane to Europe. Maybe because we’ve gotten some bad news about a family member’s health.

Maybe all of the above.

It just about did me in.

It was wonderful and sad at the same time.  The inexorable passage of time, and all that.  Sunrise, sunset.  Violins.

But it had a twist to it.

Because at the moment I felt it, there was also a stab… of realization… of astonishment…

that when his mother gave me that little grin 26 years ago…when I snapped that picture…

all the while, behind those big aqua-blue eyes of hers, behind that mischievous smile,

in the back of that precious little head,

a silent, hidden monster grew.

And no one knew.


I’m not writing this to make every young mother who’s reading become enveloped in a blanket of fear. I’m not trying to be melodramatic nor instill panic. My purpose is not to evoke a mental series of worst-case “what ifs.” The vast, vast majority of a mother's worst imaginings never come to pass.

But I wonder…

if I had had even an inkling of the existence of such a beast…

if I could have conceived that there was a time-bomb ticking away in that tiny blonde head…

what would I have done differently?

(Apart from the scenario of doing everything humanly possible to prevent its detonation.)

How would I have lived differently?

Would I have had more patience?

Would I have been softer, gentler?

Lived more in the moment?

Let the unimportant stuff go?

Spent less time on my house?

Would I have loved more, laughed more, lived more?

Cherished more?

I wonder…

If I had been given a grim glimpse of foreknowledge into the future…if I had understood how precarious it all was…

Would it have made every second matter more? Made every day more precious?

I wonder…

because we’ve all got time bombs ticking away in these earthly tents of ours.

And none of us know the day or hour when they’ll go off.

As Francis Schaeffer asked, “How, then, should we live?”


"...What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short..." (I Corinthians 7:29)


  1. Your best post my humble opinion. I also wanted to say thank you for your wise words on mental health and the need for medication. I am still surprised when I hear one of my Christian friends/acquaintances say that prayer should take care of the situation. As the wife of a clinical psychologist and one who has suffered from depression and taken an antidepressant for more than a decade, I know more needs to be done to change some "stinking thinking" regarding mental health.
    love to katty, jason, james. i am preparing for alex's graduation tea here saturday.
    cecile hamblin

  2. Love reading your blog, still Mrs. Arnold!!

    By the way, were you at the little alterations shop in the Athens mall last Friday? I saw a woman (I swear I thought you were a college student at first....I am not just saying that either. :) ) standing in front of me while I picked up a dress who looked an awful lot like you!! I've faced one too many awkward oh-sorry-you-look-like-someone-I-sort-of-know moments to say anything!!

    Your latest post gave me chills. I really enjoy reading your stuff!!!

  3. Even though I have reached the age to know that life is short....and I try to live each day acutely aware of joy, thankfulness and to be an example of Christ's love....I fail. Just yesterday I fell woefully short. Of course, if we could rewind the tape and 'record over' we would do things differently..but then it would only be valid if the surrounding circumstances stayed the same. Hindsight is 20/20...woulda, shoulda, coulda.... But often and how long do we need to beat ourselves about the head and shoulders for 'doing the best we can at the moment? Is the glass half-empty or half full? Each sunrise is a second chance. The real questions is--How will we respond? Thank God, the human condition and frailities of this earthly life are not permanent; our perfect eternal life is secure in Him.

  4. whoops, a correction often and how long.....

  5. I wonder too....

    "“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12

  6. Great post. I've often wondered that very same thing--I remember asking if there was ever any foreshadowing that something was not quite right...what would you have done? If she would have had a surgery before it burst, would the results have been different? It's really hard to have questions like that--I'm going through a situation where I should have done something about it years ago, but I didn't, I waited till 2 days ago to get my life back on track and although there is definitely the pang of regret there, I know that it happened when it was supposed to. I think the same applies to Katty's situation--if she had been younger, there wouldn't have been a Jay there to lean on or a James to fight for. Anyway, just my thoughts on the situation.

    So, I've moved to the Westside again! I'm in much closer proximity to you guys than before--if you need help or anything, let me know!!!

    Much love always,


  7. Love this post. So true. Sad, but true. Thanks for being an inspiration.

  8. What a beautiful post, Kim.

    One of the things that Nienie said a few months ago has stuck with me.

    "You can wait to do the dishes. Seriously."

    Such a simple statement. But it holds so much weight with me.

    Love and God Bless! xo, misha

  9. thank you all for these insightful comments.

    I agree..."each sunrise is a second chance."

    We just don't know how many more sunrises we'll have.

    It makes me want to live more deeply and deliberately.

    love, kim

    p.s. Yes, Callie, I was there on Friday. Thought I glimpsed a familiar face. Next time we'll both be braver!

  10. I think that when you've had a ticking time bomb in your life go off, it becomes hard not to enjoy a happy moment without thinking "is there another bomb I don't see, hidden from all of our eyes?" I think learning to live life without that fear can be the greatest challenge of the aftermath.



Thank you so much for taking the time to write.

It helps to know we're not alone.