The first time I brought my husband (then boyfriend) to meet my father in Staten Island I was anxious about being on time. My father appreciated and demanded promptness; it coursed through his Russian blood, and it wasn’t just from his two years in the Soviet army. I was brought up respecting the clock and to value our ever fleeting minutes. To this day, I can accurately tell you what time it is within ten minutes (even in the middle of the night). My husband is the polar opposite. His time is NOW and it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get there, how bad the traffic is, or how late you arrive, it’s always just now and that’s where we’ll exist happily – and usually having a grand ole time. It’s a euphoric place to live, but you have to really love him to accept this habit wholeheartedly.
It doesn’t come easily to me. I spent years getting annoyed and angry with him; we had fights, I made up earlier times, I showed up late myself to teach him a lesson – but none of it mattered. It wasn’t about me or anyone else. He lives according to the beating of his heart and that’s the ticking around which life revolves. (Note: since we’ve had our daughter, he has never been late to pick her up from anything.) He swears it is not his intention to piss me off or certainly disrespect me. He just refuses to lobotomize his lifestyle to suit mine (or yours). What’s fifteen minutes between friends (or lovers)? It’s still a daily battle. I tell him we have to leave at 11 am (if we really have to leave at 11:30) and we won’t get there in time. I tell my friends we’ll be half an hour later than I tell my husband, and you guessed it, we’ll be 15 minutes late.
That first visit to my dad’s, I was able to predict our arrival time because I relied on the timely Staten Island Ferry schedule. When we got to my dad’s house, my boyfriend and I ventured out to pick up some Chinese food. On our short trip away from the house, I hurried him through every red light urging him to stop looking around so much. I didn’t want to waste time looking in the windows of the strip mall boutiques. I wanted to get home fast; I could feel my father’s gaze upon the clock. (Mind you, I was 33 years old with a 6-year-old of my own.) We arrived back at the house and my father made a sarcastic comment about taking so long. We spent ten minutes bickering about the five minutes we were late and finally my boyfriend called my Jewish father a “Nazi of time.” I still hear the comment echoing through the air with a reverberation of striking a gong.
My husband’s point was that my father’s perpetual hovering over every minute gave me an irrational obsession with timeliness. My husband’s mother, on the other hand, never wore a watch and wasn’t on time to pick him up from school once. She trained her kids this way just like my father trained me to be on time. Today I’m amazed at my kids’ lackadaisical attitude towards time. They won’t complain about “wasting time” standing in line for rides or movies. They don’t understand how fleeting our minutes are; how each one is numbered, how we only have a limited amount. Children live, joyfully, in the same bubble as my artist husband.