Lawyers Journal

Reminiscing

As I write this column, many young people and their families are participating in graduation events, the wedding season is upon us, and college and other reunions are commencing, including my 45th college reunion. Even fictional folks are having reunions: Garry Trudeau has assembled his "Doonesbury" characters for their reunion. I am looking forward to my real one.

Several weeks ago I was honored to play piano at the wedding of the daughter of friends, a young woman who played youth soccer for me 20 years ago. The wedding and reception were at MIT, where the bride works. As a thank you, the bride and groom gave me a too generous but very thoughtful gift certificate. When I received this gift certificate, I happened to be thinking about my upcoming reunion. I also was in the process of deciding whether to have a particular watch of mine repaired, a diving watch I have no objective need for, being one of several watches I own because of a fondness for gadgets generally and watches in particular. However memory banks work, mine then clicked to a long-time friend who died a few years ago.

He was a college classmate, fraternity brother and sports teammate. He was a first-rate athlete (an all-state quarterback), first-rate intellect and a superb storyteller. He became a lawyer and, after clerking for a federal judge, worked on Wall Street for a while, thereafter becoming a headhunter. He ultimately landed in academia at a major law school as an assistant dean. For a variety of reasons, he decided to extricate himself  from everything to do with the legal profession and moved to the Virgin Islands, where he became a professional diver and instructor. He returned to the states, and a few years ago I got a call from another fraternity brother who reported that our good friend had just been diagnosed with brain cancer. This was in January and a few months later he was gone. He was as full of life as anyone I ever have known and I confess that his death hit me pretty hard.

So, armed with the unexpected gift certificate arising from my piano gig at MIT, I impulsively acquired a new professional diving watch, yet another watch for which I have no objective need. While I have done some scuba diving - years ago - my current water related activities are confined mainly to showering, swimming in my pool and occasional snorkeling on vacation, none of which remotely require a professional diving watch. Wearing the watch, however, reminds me of my late friend.

My late father-in-law, who had a lengthy, successful career on Wall Street and was more practical than I, did not covet gadgets and watches as I do. Many years ago, however, he did acquire a high-end French watch. After he died, my wife got the watch, which by then was not working, and we decided to have it refurbished.

Refurbishing old high-end watches is not for the faint of heart, and many dollars later we had an old watch that works - sort of. We gave it to our son, a sort of Wall Street type, who appreciated getting something significant connected to his grandfather.

We lawyers have considerable concern - some might say obsession - about time. Perhaps my own fascination with watches is somehow connected to that. In this season of graduations, weddings and reunions, I see further connections worth noting, however obvious they may be. Graduations celebrate the end of time at school and the corollary beginning of time devoted to other things. Weddings celebrate the union of a couple, the beginning of a hoped for long time together. Reunions celebrate time spent together and the reinforcement and renewal of relationships established during that time spent together.

The MBA's recent annual dinner in Boston, with more than 1,000 lawyers and others in attendance, had elements of graduations, weddings and reunions. There was a ceremonial passing of the gavel, as MBA officers will be changing in a few months. New friendships and connections were established. Old friendships and connections were renewed. And there was music by a band from New York City led by my childhood friend, Dave Chamberlain, with whom I have maintained regular contact for 55 years but, for a variety of reasons, had not seen in person for more than 40 years until the annual dinner.

As a small token of my appreciation for incoming MBA president Doug Sheff, I gave him my copy of Julian Barbour's book, "The End of Time." Barbour is a British physicist and philosopher whose thesis is that time does not exist. Quite apart from my difficulty in understanding his thesis, my sometimes whimsical nature compelled me to give the book to Doug, especially because it allowed me to point out that he will not have time to read it.

We often do not make the best use of our time; however that concept may be defined. It is useful, I think, in this season of graduations, weddings and reunions, to reflect on how we will use our time going forward. After all, we cannot recapture, other than by reminiscing, time past. We can and should make the best use of the time still available to us. And, as I do love irony, I note that we do not need watches for that.

The two watches I have described are not just timepieces. While one is new and the other old, both serve as tangible reminders of important relationships and connections to time past.

I will keep wearing the unneeded diving watch and be reminded of my friend. When my son wears his grandfather's watch that sort of keeps time, he will have a reminder of his grandfather and maybe even his mother and father.

In 1967 the Chambers Brothers released a song called "Time Has Come Today."

That song resonated with me and many others, including my late friend. The song ends simply: "Time." Forty-six years later that song still resonates with me. While of course no one needs a watch to listen to it, I think I will wear my new diving watch the next time I do.

©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association