Since Alex loves numbers, he finds the concept of time interesting, and he values the tools used to measure seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years. He has collected a variety of stopwatches, clocks, and calendars so that he can keep track of the passing of time himself. Alex especially likes precision when discussing time. For example, if we tell him that we’re leaving in five minutes, he might ask, “Five minutes approximately or seven minutes exactly?” Or if we tell him something will happen in a couple of months, he’ll correct us by saying something like, “About two months or exactly two months and four days?” Apparently he subscribes to the idea expressed in American Idol Kris Allen’s song “Live Like We’re Dying”: “We’ve only got 86,400 seconds in a day to turn it all around or to throw it all away.” Alex sees each second as precious—even fractions of seconds matter because he bought a stopwatch that measures thousandths of a second so that he could time the exact length of television segments and commercials.
When Alex was younger, he was obsessed with time and would repeatedly ask us what time it was, even though he knew how to tell time. Unlike many children of his generation who can only read digital clocks, Alex has been able to interpret analog clocks since he was little. Despite his interest in time, he refuses to wear a watch because he doesn’t like the feel of it on his wrist. Therefore, he relies on the numerous clocks we have in nearly every room of our house. Fortunately, he has mastered how to change all the various timepieces we own. This skill is especially handy if the power goes out or when Daylight Savings Time begins or ends, requiring the clocks to be turned back or ahead one hour. For the rooms that don’t have clocks, Alex carries a battery-operated alarm clock with him. He takes a black clock into the bathroom with him, and he brings a silver clock and puts it on the table to watch as he’s eating. How he determined which one was for which purpose remains a mystery, but he never uses the eating clock in the bathroom or the bathroom clock in the kitchen. For a while, he would also set the kitchen timer because he only wanted to eat for ten minutes. Once the buzzer went off, he was through with the meal unless we granted him bonus time to finish. Probably his favorite clock, though, is the atomic clock in his bedroom, which measures the time precisely using radio waves. He takes comfort in knowing that the atomic clock provides exactly the correct time.
In addition to his clocks, Alex also has several calendars that he keeps in his bedroom. While most people use calendars to know what the date is and to plan events, Alex likes to study calendars and the patterns that they follow. He finds perpetual calendars especially fascinating, seeing how one year leads into another and how Leap Year impacts the way the days fall in the months. Last year, when we asked him what presents he would like for Christmas, he told us he wanted “old calendars.” After giving his request some thought, I decided to look online at the website eBay to see if I could find him vintage linen towel calendars and was amazed to find several available. After surveying the selection, I bid on some of these linen towels and was able to get him relatively inexpensive calendars from various decades: 1957, 1963, 1974, and 1989. He was thrilled with these old calendars and would lay them out to study them. This summer, he specifically requested calendars for 1996, which is the first year he can remember, and 2004, which was the year Ken Jennings set the record for most consecutive wins on the game show Jeopardy. Fortunately, I was able to obtain calendar towels for those years, as well. In addition, his aunt in New York sent him a calendar towel for the current year, 2010, to add to his collection. Despite Alex’s insistence upon accuracy of time measurement, he has always done things on his own timetable because of his developmental delays. Perhaps this is why he needs tools to measure time himself and make sure that nothing passes him by as he waits to master skills in his own good time.
“At the time I have decided, my words will come true. You can trust what I say about the future. It may take a long time, but keep on waiting—it will happen!” Habakkuk 2:3