There and back again… and again… and again…





A few weeks ago, the family and I went to visit my relatives in Ohio. We didn’t have any big plans to see or do anything. After all, it’s not New York. It was just to spend some family time. We only see each other every few years.

One thing I did set up for myself was a small get-together of people I had gone to high school with. It would be a brunch somewhere. Dayton had changed since I left there in 1990. We met at The Cheesecake Factory, about eight of us.

It was what it was, a group of friends sharing brunch and histories since graduation. I felt myself getting choked up about halfway through the brunch. We all had similar experiences, accomplishments and setbacks. We talked about friends and our families. I couldn’t understand why I was feeling so sensitive to see them all again. I was closer with some than others, but on this day, we were (and are) friends.

I don’t get a lot of time in my normal life to actually sit down with people and share. It seems like I’m always busy running or working or looking after the little buggers. I don’t regret my time with my immediate family. I suppose a lot of people are in the same “family” boat, more things to do than time to do it in.

But, on that day, I was with my peers, my friends from a long, long time ago. 40 years out of high school is a long time.

As usual, time goes quickly when having fun. It was an interesting meeting. The girls sat on one side of the tables and the boys on the other. The more things change, I suppose, the more they stay the same.

It was time to say goodbyes and I thought I heard that song from Dan Fogelburg, Old Lang Syne, “Met my old lover in the grocery store”, at least I think that was the name of it. What does one say to friends from so long ago that now I see again and how do I tell them I’ve missed them, how I thought about them all from time to time, how life is curious with its twists and turns and “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to”.   How do I tell them I’ve survived in spite of myself? How do I tell them that somehow I miss high school? I miss the feeling, the freedom, the friendships. Then, how do I say goodbye again?

And after the final goodbyes, I broke down and cried. I don’t know why.   At almost 60 years old, somehow my rock solid defenses melted in the face of nostalgia and sentimentality. I didn’t feel ashamed. I felt like I was cleansing my soul. That somehow, I made it through 40 years and I’m still standing. I have plenty of battle scars and emotional baggage. But, somehow, I made it, just like they all made it, too. Some of them had grandchildren. Some had retired. But, somehow, everybody seemed happy and at peace with where they were. Maybe they were and maybe they weren’t. Maybe I was and maybe I’m not.

I quickly gathered my composure and the tears stopped as abruptly as they had started. I felt a mix of happiness, relief and peace.

I rejoined the family in their frolicking in the sun and went on about our vacation.

About a week ago, I met a priest in the store. As usual, I struck up a conversation with him as I do with everybody. I don’t even remember everything we talked about. I suppose that’s a pleasure of being almost 60 is that I don’t remember everything like I used to. But, there is one thing he said, he was originally from Italy where he started his priesthood. But, he had moved to the US about 40 years ago to do his ministry here. Anyway, he said that just a few weeks prior, he had gone back to Italy and visited his home and neighborhood which he had not seen in 40 years. He said it was a very emotional time for him seeing everything and everybody again. It brought back a lot of memories he had previously forgotten.

Was it so coincidental that he returned to his home after 40 years like I had just done? Was it coincidental that he had experienced such profound emotions on his return which sounded a lot like my emotional cleansing?

It all made sense to me. It didn’t make sense. But, I felt that everything was ok and that my self and my emotions are not abnormal. I can’t speak for my high school classmates who were never really normal anyway, but I think they felt what I felt. Maybe, on our journeys people enter and leave and come and go and everything works out the way it is supposed to and maybe everything we experience is another chance to grow. And maybe, we should just celebrate our time together and hope that someday we can have more time together. And laughter and tears are both the price and rewards of the journey.

“We drank a toast to innocence, We drank a toast to now… and for just a moment I was back in school…. and the snow turned into rain.” Lyrics by Dan Fogelburg

Our new carriage

It’s “our” new carriage.  The little buggers think I bought it for them.  Ok, maybe I did, sort of.  Anyway, they loved it as soon as they saw it and had to explore.

20160916_153003_resized 20160916_145940_resized

September 11, 2001

I want to take take a moment and remember and pause and reflect and share the memories of this day. God Bless all the heroes and victims that lost their lives on this day and God Bless their families.

I was working at a job in Long Island City in NYC on that day. Long Island City is right on the East River and I had a clear view of the Towers. The woman in the cubicle next to mine was listening to the Howard Stern show on the radio. I’m not a big HS fan, but on that day he did a phenomenal job of updating the current events. I remember walking outside to see the Towers and the horrendous smoke. The streets were filled with people and all the traffic had stopped.

Esther and I were calling each other all morning and sharing news. At the time, nobody knew what was going on and how extensive the attacks were going to be. There were a lot of rumors. At about 11:30am, the phones stopped working. Shortly thereafter, Guiliani shut down the city and the subways.

At about 2:00pm, I decided that I couldn’t stay at work anymore cause I was worrying about her. Her job was on 30th street, not far from the Empire State Building a couple of miles north of Ground Zero. At my job, even though the subways were shut down, everybody else seemed to be going about their business as if nothing was happening. I will never forget management’s casual disregard for the events.

I walked home, about a 20 minute walk, and immediately turned on the TV to see all the chaos. There was an eerie quiet on the streets and in the neighborhood we lived.

At about 4:00, Esther walks in. She had walked all the way home from Manhattan, across the 59th Street bridge. It was over a four hour walk. Even then we knew this was a cataclysmic and life-changing event.

For days and weeks afterward, the smoke was in the air above Ground Zero. When it finally rained about a month later, the smoke finally began to dissipate. The subways were abnormally quiet as nobody laughed and nobody talked.

Someday I will tell the boys about the events of the day. I don’t know how or what to expect as I tell the tale of a day of profound events and feelings. I don’t know how to answer the Why question. I will never understand. I will probably forget all the details of my day, but I will not forget those who were taken from us in a senseless act. God Bless us everyone and God Bless the United States of America.