In cricket, a half-century is considered to be a very good achievement. In life, hitting the half-century mark as I do today is definitely a good achievement, considering that I almost didn't make it to 40. Still, it is a number that is somewhat hard to fathom.
50 years old as of today.
I look back on these years, and have to smile somewhat. I'm laughing while thinking of the words of a song by Crash Test Dummies:
"Someday I'll wear, pyjamas in the daytime
Someday I'll have, a disappearing hairline
Oh, oh, oh, afternoons, will be measured out
Measured out, measured with, coffee spoons
And T.S. Eliot."
When I was born, there were no computers, or not at least as we know them today. Phones were big, bulky, black, and operators worked switchboards with a myriad of plug-in cables. I was living in Brooklyn for those first few years, where everyone knew their neighbor, and the local coffee shop was where my addiction for the finest caffeinated beverage on the planet got its start. It's said that I was weaned from the bottle to the coffee cup. My mom, the child of Romanian immigrants. Dad, second generation whose father, was a first generation Hungarian (or at least I'm pretty sure that's where they're from), who was lucky enough to be working in the Post Office during the Depression, and was able to survive better than many other families.
We moved into the projects (council housing for my Brit friends) in Queens for a time. This is when living in the projects did not carry the stigma that it does today. They were designed to be a sort of way station until a family could improve their financial station in life, and hopefully move on to buying a home somewhere, which back in the 60's usually meant out into the suburbs. It appeared as though that was going to be my destiny, as we were looking at a house in New Jersey, when the unthinkable happened; my dad lost his job. We had to abandon the idea of the house, and looked north towards the Bronx, where a brand new private housing behemoth was being built.
October 19th, 1970. We moved up into the Bronx, and this is where I would spent the next 19 years of my life, in the place that would have the most impact on me while growing up. I had my own room, in what seemed like a huge apartment compared to the one we had in the projects, and an unlimited view from the 29th floor. The building was as tall as a Saturn V moon rocket, and the development held 60,000 people from all corners of NYC. It was a "cooperative housing" complex, meaning that one did not pay rent per se, and actually purchased equity, or "shares" as they were euphemistically called.
At the end of the day, it was rent.
It was here that I learned the way the world worked, from having and losing friends, to hanging out in the stairways and running from the local security force that tried to chase us away; to getting my first kiss, and smoking my first joint. Being mugged and fighting back. Learning to drive my dad's 1976 Chevy Nova, and using the back seat for learning about those things that my parents never bothered talking to me about. Going away to college and coming back on vacations and breaks. Hurrying back in 1984 to stay with my mom after my dad had his heart attack and subsequent bypass surgery.
Bringing my then girlfriend Mrs. N. to NYC for the first time. As we drove towards where I lived, she looked at the massive sprawling development and remarked, "You live in that mess???" Ah yes, this was the girl of my dreams.
Coming home after graduating. Getting hired in Brooklyn as a paramedic, where I would stay employed for 11 years. Getting diagnosed with an autoimmune liver disease. Learning that my dad, who was getting sick with symptoms I should have recognized, had contracted HIV through a blood transfusion he had during his bypass surgery 4 years earlier. Waking up in my room on that Valentine's Day, 1988 to the my mom crying. Dad died during the night. He was brain dead on a ventilator after going into cardiac arrest a few days before following a bronchoscopy. I should have stayed in the hospital, and was kicking myself for many years afterwards for feeling as though I let him die alone. He was 62.
Getting married a year and a half later, and moving to Westchester County. I was now officially a suburbanite, though still an apartment dweller. Ten years there. Going to England and Scotland for the first time. Going on a cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. Getting sicker from my ever progressing liver disease, getting promoted at work, getting my transplant, recovering, having the chance to see my niece, who was born 36 hours before my transplant. Another promotion, and then moving to Rochester.
Working on the organ transplant team for a year, then leaving health care behind altogether, and left with "What do I want to do with my life now?" syndrome. Picking up acting again, and falling in love with it all over again. Starting to write again, teaching myself how to do public relations. Losing Susan, my best friend in the world and fellow transplant recipient. Depression, medication, therapy. Buying a house, dealing with marriage issues, trying to find out who I am now.
A lot to cover in 50 years. As with most people, it is a balance of good, bad, and sometimes horrific life events. I almost didn't make 40, but am glad that I can see 50.
A cricket team or batsman can score 50 runs in an afternoon. I scored my runs one birthday at a time. Here's to another half-century.
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