Awaiting flight to Chicago, looking out at an empty runway, my mind murmurs in a blend of gratitude, wistfulness, and reflection. At 66 I’m running harder, working smarter, and feeling wiser than in years. Fueled, I am, with sustained gratitude for the friends and family that have loved me, held my hand, propped me up, and more than anything else: taught me. It is a wondrous feeling to be teasing my seventies yet quite able to look backward and forward at the very same time.

       “…Once I was seven years old, my mama told me,
       Go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely…”

The corner of Bayard and Wrenford roads was to me no less than the 20th century’s intersection of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This epicenter to my life, the fulcrum of which was its ball yard, brought me the lessons and memories of Fromin, Fenton, Cohen, Gelfand, and Davidson — not to mention Masseria and Hovanyi (two good hitting/poor fielding Catholics whose families, pioneers to South Euclid,  never dreamed that Jews would invade). It was the perfect neighborhood in a perfect time … weather permitting.

       “…It was a big big world, but we thought we were bigger
       Pushing each other to the limits, we were learning quicker…”

Fromin taught me to throw a curve and Johnny Matejka taught me to hurl a spiral.  “Alfie” Feldman?  In an era where they’d line us against Rowland’s right field fence to choose players, he made it clear that age didn’t matter, and that if you were good enough you’d get in the game.

       “Once I was twenty years old. Stuart told me.
       Go get yourself a wife or you’ll be lonely.”

Wedding my very first girl friend wasn’t necessarily mistake. I mean we did last twenty-two years, and you’d have won some money had you bet the “over”. Yet it took its toll.

“…I always had that dream: to be like my daddy before me.                                                                                                                                         Couldda sold some magazines and never looked for glory.                                                                                                                                         Something about that glory.                                                                                                                                                                                                 Just always seemed to bore me                                                                                                                                                                                       ‘Cause only those I really love will ever really know me…”

Passion for my chosen profession has come in bits and pieces. Truth be known, when I’ve been comfortable with myself I’ve been comfortable with my work. My dream job? Still? To be the greeter at Corky’s. (Sunday mornings, 11 am would be perfect)

“…Once I was sixty years old.  My daddy died young— And so I cherish time and life!  Each day’s a better one..”.

 Our mom ran longer, grinding past eighty. I was a good son, on balance, but not a great one. She didn’t ask for much, and I usually delivered … usually. But I felt no guilt —

“…Soon I’ll be seventy years old.  Will I think the world is cold (or will my children’s children come and warm me?).

It’s Social Security now — for most of us. Fromin and Gelfand are on the east coast; Fenton’s on the Gulf Coast; Hovanyi’s dead and Matejka’s just gone….

And yet— and yet friends of my youth remain; friends of my life sustain; and in a perfect example of “Whodda thunk it?”, I wound up marrying my best friend of all.

No, I don’t throw the ball around as I used to. Nor do I care much for football.

And yet — and yet on any given day I wake to family and friends in a world that widens as I let it, and more than ever I embrace looking backward and forward at the very same time.

(Once I was seven years old).

—-Lukas Graham, adapted.

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