Armen Bacon

Living in prime time

Virginia Derian’s wish for her 90th birthday is a dance with handsome Rep. Jim Costa.
Virginia Derian’s wish for her 90th birthday is a dance with handsome Rep. Jim Costa. Special to The Bee

A few weeks ago, I found myself obsessing over the passage of time. People waiting all week for Fridays, all year for summer, all of their lives for happiness. I also found myself pondering how it could possibly be June.

Years ago, I recall meeting an elderly woman, a next-door neighbor of my grandmother’s. All hunched over, she implored me with thick accent to guard my “young heart” and “youthful optimism,” promising one day I’d wake up old, wrinkled, decrepit – noticing years gone and taken.

I told myself right then and there I’d never feel that way. What was she talking about? I had all the time in the world.

Then a few weeks ago, when the youngest pair of grandkids, our 5-year-old twins, Dennis and Sosi, registered for kindergarten, my heart took a plunge. Babies no more.

Cringing at the thought, wanting to freeze-frame this tender age and stage, I felt an urge to punch Father Time in the nose.

These are the last two grandchildren, so emotions run rampant and bittersweet even now as I write. I’m banking on them staying innocent, reciting imperfect “r’s,” not balking at the bear hug rituals for at least a couple more years. Times being what they are, they’re the ones instilling my hope for the future, and in much higher decibels than Donald, Hillary or Bernie.

Despite presidential candidates showing up in Fresno left and right, politics took a back seat to personal milestones occurring last month in our family. My mother turned 90. Normally I would write an entire column in her honor – but my recent health matters put the kibosh on that plan. With both brain and body still rebooting, I’ve promised to make it up to her sooner rather than later.

To add more fuel to family fireworks, our eldest grandson became a teenager last week, prompting me to wade through albums and photo boxes reminiscing and reliving his birth, toddler and preschool years, leading up to this half boy/half man phase of development.

Watching the YouTube video of his first words completely dissolved me, reducing me to a drooling dialect of oohs and aahs. Pure baby love.

The adage, “Time flies when you’re having fun” certainly holds true. Next month, Dan and I celebrate 40 years of marriage and I will be eligible for Medicare.

As my Mojo shows signs of revival, my senses are especially feline. Taking refuge at the kitchen table, I try catching up with an unwieldy stack of mail (mostly bills). Saving the thick, calligraphied envelopes for last, I find myself smiling: one wedding, two graduations, and a beautiful luncheon invitation celebrating life, love and friendship.

Time and life, hand in hand, marching forward.

I keep telling myself I should be more consumed with the presidential election, but the real stuff of life continues to awe me with distraction. Watching the evening news, all I see is Trump’s extra long red tie, his orange-tanned face and comb-over, Bernie’s strained voice and rolled-up shirtsleeves, and Hillary’s permanently Botoxed happy face.

Excessive calamity jars my brain. Too much hatred and deception sweeping our country.

Maybe I’m jaded after succumbing to four seasons of “House of Cards.”

Amid all the confusion, something quite wonderful and unexpected happened. I received a note from Rep. Jim Costa after he read my last column. Concerned and inquiring about my health, he also asked about my mom.

We run into him at nearly every Armenian function in town and without fail, he has always crossed even the most crowded of rooms to say hello, pay his respects and give her a squeeze.

A few months ago, she had whispered her singular birthday wish into my ear: to dance with the handsome congressman. Friends might recall that just a few years ago, on her 88th birthday, all she wanted was to wear a strapless gown and fly to Las Vegas (my forever young-at-heart mother).

When his email arrived, opportunity knocked. My cursor couldn’t resist typing in her request. Less than 24 hours later, he called her and sang a rousing verse of “Happy Birthday.” The blush on her cheeks persists even now, days later.

The story doesn’t end here. Quite apologetically, Rep. Costa called me promising next time he was in town, he’d make good on mom’s dance request. We also had a heart to heart about the rigors of life and the need to know when to press the pause button to inhale the beauty of life’s magic and wonder.

Jim Costa’s humanness not only made my mother’s day, but helped erase my growing cynicism about politics and the uncertainty of these crazy, mixed-up times. In the heat of what appears to be a three-ring political circus dominating prime time, we can all use a little more civility, compassion and kindness.

Time is precious and fleeting – regardless of age or party affiliation.

Armen D. Bacon is a writer and co-author of “Griefland: An Intimate Portrait of Love, Loss and Unlikely Friendship” and a collection of essays titled “My Name is Armen.” Email:; Twitter, @ArmenBacon