Many years ago, I had an older friend named Jack, who on the date of his fiftieth birthday, became very depressed. When I asked why, he remarked that he had come to the conclusion that half of his life was now over, and that he was on the downside of life.
Though I was a much younger man at the time, this stuck with me, and I waited until the date of my fiftieth, wondering if this same feeling of malaise would descend upon me, wondering if perhaps seeing more than half of my life in my rear view mirror would be a depressing concept.
Jack, I don't know if you're around anymore as we've traveled different paths, but I can say with full confidence that not only do I look forward to many more years of happiness and joy, but I can look back upon the "first half" of my life with so much happiness, and so many wonderful memories, that I feel as if I have been so blessed in this life. Unlike you, Jack, I have no dread of marching forward, as I'm very much looking forward to this next chapter.
Recently, so many of us have traveled back in time, either through this blog or Facebook (where we have raised the average age of users by at least five years), and through periodic dinners and get-togethers. It's obvious that dozens, and perhaps hundreds of us, have felt this need to reconnect, after so many years apart. It's been a blast.
As time has gone by since this connection, I think many of us have realized just how different our paths have been, and how different we all are, yet despite all this, we are part of a collective fabric.
We're not all Democrats or all Republicans, we are not all happily married, or world travelers, or thriving in this world, yet despite this, there is something that will forever tie us to one another.
We are that generation of Baby Boomers that is now middle aged (though many of us still look in a mirror and see a kid smiling back), and the oldest of us are now starting to qualify for Social Security. We grew up in a different world, with a different set of values and expectations than those that followed us in those five "Stalinist" buildings on Surf Avenue, and there seems to have been something different about our world back then, or there is no way that so many of us would be making that journey "back home".
There is something comforting about looking back at those pictures of many of us lying on chaise lounges holding sun reflectors, or Al The Ice Cream Man standing there beside his cart, and the joy of reconnecting and knowing that there are others out there that have this same love for our collective past gives us closure.
I have enjoyed reconnecting to so many of you, and learning of your experiences and trials and tribulations through these many years has given texture to my memories of you. Yes, many of us have suffered through tremendous personal losses or a debilitating health crisis, or other life issues, but at our core, we are still those same kids, still turning our jeans into shorts when the knees are torn, and the same kids with faces lit from the joy of running carefree through the sprinkler on the rare summer days when it was turned on (and working).
I see already that as time goes by, these days of checking Facebook for postings by our old, long-lost friends is fading away. The knowledge that we all still exist and we all still care about those times will cause me to smile, even if (as I expect), we are all coming to many new forks in the road, and we will all soon head on into the sunset chasing different paths.
To each of you, my friends, both old and new, whether we now remember each other or not, we are part of something that was special and you will ALWAYS mean much to me, whether we part now never to connect again.
I've learned (or perhaps remembered) that we weren't all alike, and that there are reasons why we were all connected in that "big" park, yet had different friends, and why we all traveled different paths.
But to me, you'll all still be kids there, running through the park, breathing in that salty summer air, or shoveling snow off the courts so we can play basketball or cold winter days.
To me, there will always be crowded pavilions on the boardwalk and working fountains, we'll all struggle figuring out how to wash the outside of the top windows of our apartments without falling out, and I'll always wonder what the two barbers are saying to one another in Italian in that barber shop on 29th street between Mermaid and Surf Avenues.
Let's each raise a glass of Merlot or Diet Coke to one another, and toast just how fortunate we were to have lived in our time, in that place, and with one another. We are the greatest generation, because we were lucky enough to have grown up in that last innocent era, where we could dream big, where we cared about one another, and where the world ahead of us was big and bold and somehow, SAFE.
To my dear friend Jack, now long lost (and most likely gone), may I say with all due respect that unlike you, I have too much left ahead of me to accomplish, too many new moments to enjoy, and too many happy memories to make. I am not going to sit here and dread the future, because perhaps unlike you, my future is too full for me to fear it.
To my old friends, many now reconnected, may I thank you for the wealth of memories you have given me. My life is full, both looking forward and behind me, and I owe much of that to you all.
As we march forward, and though we may lose sight of one another yet again, I am delighted to have made this journey back in time, as you have confirmed what I always believed, that our place was special, and our experiences unique.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you all.