Time Rushes By

at 10:43 PM

I was a little nervous as I closed the car door and buckled my seat belt tightly. But I shouldn't have been, since I knew the driver pretty well. After all, I've known him since he was a few days old.

That's because the driver was my nephew, Max. Though it's hard to believe it's been 16 years since that phone call from my brother informing me I was an uncle, Max is now a teenager with a driver's license and has reached that California milestone - his first car.

Max proudly walked me around his Chevy, like a used car salesman pointing out the cool features. He sat in the driver's seat, and we took off, with me thinking of teenage driver horror stories. But as he cautiously stopped at each intersection and carefully observed traffic rules, I relaxed and looked out the window.

The suburbs were dashing by -- a quick glance as we passed the school where Max attended kindergarten. Could it really have been so many years ago? Past the shopping mall where a tiny Max and I rode the miniature train around the parking lot  -  wasn't that just last week?

Past a cafe near his middle school where we sometimes went for lunch, and he would devour huge sandwiches and three cookies at a time. Past that house where I dropped him off for guitar lessons, when he was starting a garage rock band. Past the old office of my long dead father, who never met this young man, his grandson.  Past the trail through the fields where Max and I would hike or ride bikes.

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But his bike is sitting in the garage these days, with other out-grown toys, next to the remote control car I gave him when he was six. And, as familiar streets zipped by, I thought how fast we were going, how fast it all goes, how Max zoomed from a baby to taller than me, from toy cars to real cars, seemingly in the minute it takes to go from zero to 60 on the highway. How the years pass as quickly and unstoppably as those cars in the next lane.

I rolled down the window and let the air blow on my face. "Hey, Uncle Rick," said an amused Max. "Are you crying?"

"Nah," I said. "It's the wind in my eyes, that's all."

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

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Richard Swerdlow teaches for the San Francisco Unified School District.

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