Sunday, June 22, 2008

Blaming aliens

Published June 22, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

I realized today that I live my life from within the pages of an old fashioned science fiction novel. In this novel, all of my childhood friends and acquaintances have been off on an intergalactic mission, traveling at the speed of light while I have stayed back on earth in order to hold the place together. As in any good, old-fashioned science fiction novel (due to a misunderstanding of Einstein’s theory of relativity), my astronaut friends have not aged a bit though more than a decade has passed.

This realization came to the forefront as I approached the vessel (house) of my childhood friend, Elizabeth. As I climbed the platform (steps) to her receiving bay (front door), I smiled to myself, eager to greet my small, tomboyish friend in her cute, blond pageboy haircut and cheery sweater, circa 1987. When I was greeted instead by a beautiful 30 year old woman with long hair, a smiling husband, and three giggly children, I drew the obvious conclusion any earthbound character would have drawn. Aliens got her.

I would have run away in terror had I not smelled the inviting scent of barbecued ribs from the kitchen. Aliens may have stolen my friend and replaced her with some strange, grown-up version of Elizabeth, but they certainly knew their way around a grill.

The age/time paradox is like a well rehearsed rule in my mind. I am allowed to age. My children (to a lesser extent) are allowed to age. Everyone else, especially those who live far from me, are not allowed to age and therefore must escape the aging process by rocketing off to unknown destinations until such time that we can arrange a meeting. When reality hits, and I find that no one I know has been living by the rules, it’s perturbing to say the least.

Case in point: Ryan. He was 2 when I met him, a precocious boy who walked on his toes and knew his stars from his circles and his reds from his blues. Upon reconnecting with his family, I found him to be 6 feet 3 inches tall, sporting massive shoulders and a beard. I turned to his mother and said, “I don’t know if you’ve realized this, but Ryan has facial hair. I don’t know how YOU feel about it, but I am NOT okay with it.”

Ryan responded to my scolding not by pointing at my shirt and shouting a high-pitched, “BLUE!” as I would have expected but with a resonant and amused, “But my facial hair makes me look cool.” I craned my neck as far back as I could, looked deeply into his eyes and said, “That’s why I’m not okay with it.”

I think part of my problem with all of this is my lifelong desire to never be that annoying person saying, “The last time I saw you, you were only this tall!” or “You were in diapers!” or “You were voting Republican!” Rather than think of something more creative to say (there isn’t anything…believe me), I’ve been living my life in complete denial. When the moment comes and I’m faced with a much older version of someone in a past life, I’m lost.

The good news, I think, is that this phenomenon is not confined to mild mannered newspaper columnists who have a taste for science fiction. Elizabeth seemed just as oblivious to the passage of time as we reminisced about my younger brother, whom she thought she sent on a mission to the Vega system the moment we moved away from Oklahoma. I broke the news that he is now 28 years old with a wife and two children. I quickly reassured her that I suspect his being replaced by aliens, and she relaxed.

I mean, it’s sad to lose someone to extraterrestrial kidnapping, but the barbecue’s good eating.