Retro clock and gift in heart shape on the background.

Making our dwindling time count

I’ve always wondered about the wisdom of scheduling Valentine’s Day less than two months after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

We’ve just completed one orgy of gatherings and good will, and then another similarly critical event is thrust upon us.

If we participated at all in the loving and gift-giving at the end of the year, and if we did it with the prescribed amount of gusto, what gift is left for those who mean the most to us on Valentine’s Day?

I was thinking about this while doing my job, a good part of which involves endlessly scanning the Internet, other magazines and newspapers looking for ideas about how to make ours better. I prefer to think of it as multi-tasking, but I suppose you could consider it dereliction of duty since most of this personal “thinking” seems to occur during work hours.

Regardless, I stumbled across the e-newsletter “Charlotte Agenda” published by a small crew in North Carolina and dedicated to covering the city of Charlotte (it’s similar to a free one we publish for our neighborhood that you can subscribe to at

I read the Charlotte Agenda from time to time not because it’s attractive or flashy, like so much of what catches our attention on the Internet these days, but because the writing is unique: one of the three writers seems full of himself, one seems to revel in being a wordsmith and the third flashes the rare ability to think and write at the same time.

This day she’s talking about the Internet site “Wait But Why,” and she’s pondering a specific article there about “The Tail End” in which writer Tim Urban quantifies by diagrams exactly how far along most of us are in our journey through life.

He starts by calculating the projected number of pizzas and dumplings he has left to eat. And there’s discussion about the number of Super Bowls he’ll likely still live to see (he assumes 60) and the number of presidents he may yet survive (nine).

But then he tilts more seriously: By the time most of us reach our mid-30s, he concludes, we’ve burned through 95 percent of our in-person parent time, meaning well before the presumed middle of our lives, we have relatively little time left to spend with our parents, if we’re lucky enough that they’re still alive.

Same with siblings: We go from spending every day with them for the first 18 or so years of our life to seeing them occasionally or rarely or not at all.

And so he concludes that if these things matter to us, we should make it a point to live near and spend time with the people we love most. And if we truly are in the last 10 percent of time we’ll spend with these people who mean the most to us, we should treat that time as the precious commodity it is, rather than worry too much about spending money on roses, chocolates and expensive meals on a fairly artificial holiday.

So maybe the person who scheduled Valentine’s Day was thinking clearly after all, making a date regularly associated with love for others to follow so closely after a season that seems to have moved far from its intended meaning.