I keep multiple calendars running in my mind. Lately, several have slipped out of synchronicity. My adult life calendar began in college. I kept a calendar of the days of the week. This calendar ran for 44 years, until I retired earlier this year. It was a days-of-the-week, rather than numbers of dates, calendar. I had my life routinized around Monday-Wednesday-Friday and Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday obligations of classes and later work. I lived inside this calendar, in the sense that when I was involved in attending, for instance, a Monday class, I projected my future in terms of Wednesday or Friday. M-W-F was a separate tunnel of life from T-Th-Sa. When I had children, their school calendars ran M-T-W-Th-F schedules, which largely, but not entirely, overlapped with my days-of-the-week calendar. Our days of the week calendars were blocked out as in-school and out-of-school.
Raised in the Episcopal Church by my parents, I also kept the Christian calendar of Sundays of worship, holidays, festivals, and observances. This calendar, also, was not a date-calendar. It divided the solar year into chunks - Advent and Lent, for instance. When I married my second wife, who is a Jew, I was introduced to the Judaic calendar, with its similar, but longer-running schedule of religious observances.
The date calendar of months and dated days was the least important calendar in my life. It was abstract - very Cartesian - and my PDA perfectly expressed its essence. It was important only in terms of scheduled appointments that were not routine. For several decades, I was active in civic affairs. My date calendar was enriched by the secular schedule of civic appointments. The dry formality of city council meetings and civic association meetings perfectly expressed the spare quality of that calendar.
There are many other calendars which my life touched but which are now gone. My father, a logger, worked in the woods. As a child, our family's calendar was linked to the five seasons (Summer, Autumn, Winter, Mud, Spring), their weather, and the length of days. This calendar apportioned my father's presence in our home. In Winter, when daylight was shortest, he often lived away, to reduce his driving time to the wood lots and mills. In Summer, he would be home, but out of the house by 5 AM, not to return until 7 PM or much later.
I had briefer acquaintance with other calendars, such as the Northeastern farm calendar of planting, harvest, and indoor repair. At the age of fourteen years, I obtained a work permit and began my work life as a farm laborer. In the spring, after school, I would ride my bicycle to a farm outside my village. I would work for several hours before biking home. On weekends, I worked eleven hour days. Mainly I worked with a hoe, in a gang of teenage boys, on row crops. In the Spring, we prepared the ground and planted. In the Summer, we weeded. In the late Summer, we harvested. I had this job until mid-Summer in my second year of employment. The farmer fired me after I systematically hoed out young shoots of lettuce, leaving the weeds, in a $500 plot of rows - an enormous loss, because the farmer did not have time to replant. Instantly, upon firing, I forgot all about the agricultural calendar.
As I said, I am now retired from my career. My main calendars have gone out of synch. I no longer have a M-W-F, T-Th-Sa calendar, so I no longer think about my life in terms of what day of the week it is. My children are now adults, so I don't have their school calendars on my mind. When I read the newspapers in the morning, I don't think to check the day. Sometimes, I ask my wife what day of the week it is, as a matter of curiosity, so I'll know. When I take my morning walks and watch neighborhood children wait for school buses and walking to school, I am aware of their school schedule, and it seems faintly odd to me, in the back of my mind.
My religious calendar has changed, too. When our children were home, we observed Christmas, though my wife and son are Jews; but we did not observe Jewish holidays. Nine-Eleven changed that. Both of my children were at the World Trade Center on Tuesday morning, Nine-Eleven. They were not inside the Twin Towers when the towers collapsed, but were nearby and survived, horrified. They watched people hurl themselves out of the top floors. My daughter was in banking. Her heart was in the hearts of her colleagues falling to their deaths. A woman collapsed into my son's arms, sobbing, "My husband is in that tower". Their close-call was paralleled by mine. I was in Boston on the weekend. I had been scheduled to fly out of Logan Airport Tuesday morning, on American Airlines, non-stop to LAX. Without checking with me, just before I left for Boston the previous week, my wife changed my return flight to Monday afternoon, nine-ten. I did not know of the changed return flight until Sunday when I called home to ask her to tell me my return flight schedule. By her whim, I was not on any of the hijacked planes on the morning of Nine-Eleven.
Nine-Eleven changed our lives - my life, my wife's life, and the lives of my children. It was the beginnng of a new calendar and new lives for all of us. The anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism associated with the attack on the Twin Towers rose around us like the storm of ash that erupted when the buildings collapsed. My wife and I took the attacks personally as efforts to kill me and our children - our daughter and me because we are Americans and my son because he is in addition a Jew. We started observing the Jewish sabbath and saying prayers. Our political lives changed. My wife and I left the Democratic Party, to which we had belonged all our adult lives, because we now identify it as the party of appeasement; we became Republicans.
Nine-Eleven is the first date and Tuesday the first day of our new political calendar. When I walk around my neighborhood, I try to make all the other calendars I see in operation around me synchronous with our new Nine-Eleven calendar. Before Nine-Eleven, we had our History and our Past; they are largely gone, literally blown away. Now we look around and see the Future. This Future cannot be stated in terms of complete sentences, but only in fragments and phrases. A long Future of struggle and our family at risk. Not a Future defined by a calendar of days, but a calendar of history unfolding before us. Lines of commitment, like a highway, extend far ahead. To out-of-sight over the horizon. Destination, but not our Destiny, unknown.