Time Travel With ALS: What If We Could?
I’ve been thinking about time travel after watching a couple movies with my husband, Todd, who has ALS. We enjoyed “About Time” during one of our date nights and “The Time Traveler’s Wife” during another. Both movies have subplots that involve love, marriage, and children.
If time travel were possible, I’d want to go back to when Todd was healthy and relive our travel adventures.
I’d need to be careful, because when traveling back in time, the butterfly effect is a concern. Small differences in sequences of events could alter the future in unforeseeable ways.
I’d like to go back to our honeymoon in Maine, or the trip we took to France, but I wouldn’t risk it because those times were before our kids were born. I wouldn’t want to return to the present without our daughter, Sara, or with a Sara who is two years older and an entirely different person. Or maybe our firstborn would be our son, but not the one I currently have the privilege of loving and parenting.
The butterfly effect would limit my time travel until after our son, Isaac, was born. He arrived just nine months before Todd was diagnosed, so that wouldn’t give me a long time before we were living under the cloud of a terminal disease.
In my time travel universe, since I’m setting the rules, I would have no knowledge of why Todd’s arm was weak. I’d relive our vacation on Siesta Key, Florida, two months before the diagnosis. We’d walk on the beach and build sand castles. I’d buy souvenirs at the Siesta Fiesta art show, and Todd and I would dine at a nice restaurant while Todd’s parents watched the kids.
I’d do Siesta Key all over again, but I wouldn’t want to stay there, because that would mean our kids would have to remain little.
I recently listened to a segment of the “This American Life” podcast about a survey by the Pew Research Center and Smithsonian Magazine about what technological advances people would like to see. The last question was open-ended: “If there was one futuristic invention that you could own, what would it be?”
Nearly one in 10 Americans — as many as those who wanted improved health, longer lifespans, or cures for major diseases — would like to have the ability to travel through time.
As I made Todd his breakfast, I asked him if he’d want to travel back in time.
“Not really.” He took a sip of his coffee through a straw. “Well, maybe to invest in some stocks,” he said. Apparently in his time travel universe, he retains his present knowledge.
“I’d go back to our vacation on Siesta Key a couple times a month, just for a break from ALS,” I told him.
And then Todd asked me a question that brought me back to the present. “If the Kristin of 10 years from now traveled back to today, what would she do?”
I thought about it. In 2031, if I get to choose moments from my past to relive, would I come back to today?
In 10 years, Todd will likely be gone. The kids will be adults and probably in college or starting a career in some far-flung place. As hard as life is, I’m going to miss parts of this tough decade. So yeah, I’d come back to visit.
However, I wouldn’t go back to three weeks ago when Todd had a bad cold and his lungs kept filling with mucus. That was stressful. I’m relieved he’s finally doing better, and we’re able to get back to enjoying the parts of our life that are still good.
Even with the stress of ALS, Todd engages with the kids. Our 11-year-old son drilled out a stripped bolt on his dirt bike with his dad’s coaching.
“Sara, come tell me about your day,” Todd said enthusiastically when she returned from theater camp last week. Our 15-year-old daughter entertained us with a comedic account of her day. We laughed.
Those are the priceless moments of the last week that future Kristin would delight in reliving.
“Do you know what I think you’d do if you came back?” Todd asked. “You’d give me a hug and a kiss.”
And so I did.
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