Sixty Years And Counting

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Jack Young
Jack Young

By the time you read this column, I will have outlasted my dad by nearly 30 days. I will have proudly watched both of my children graduate from college, my son from law school. Audrey and I will celebrate our “pearl anniversary” this July, also known as the tricentennial anniversary. I didn’t know either of those names—I Googled the names for a 30th anniversary.

I am firmly ensconced at the “old persons” table at most affairs and occasions. As I happily celebrate the nuptials of several of my friends and neighbors children, I have been respectfully placed farther and farther away from the dance floor. I don’t know why the brides believe that the people at the old folks table won’t dance. In my mind, Audrey and I just got finished planning Zachary and Jessica’s Bar and Bat Mitzvah’s. I danced like a madman at those affairs with my wife and the DJ dancers. Those parties seem like yesterday.

Maybe it’s because I am agreeable to eating dinner just after the “early bird” specials are available and I haven’t seen a non-DVR episode of Saturday Night Live in nearly five years, I’ve been typecast as senior.

Friday afternoons, four to eight men of my vintage meet for “men’s “lunch” at a variety of local restaurants. I cringe when the conversation drifts towards upcoming doctor appointments and daily medications taken.

Happily, we’ve reached a point and time in our respective careers where if the food and conversation spill beyond 60 minutes, none of us are in danger of being fired. Candidly, for a couple of the men’s lunch regulars, there’s a better chance of their Fortune 500 employer tapping them on the shoulder to say it’s time to accept the company’s retirement package.

I’m thankful to be able to remember my Bar Mitzvah. After butchering the reading of my Torah portion, 20 male only friends and family attended a Yankees game. After the game we met the female contingent of my Bar Mitzvah party at the Empire State Building where the restaurant housed there in 1969 hosted my reception. How sexist were those arrangements on the tail end of the 1960s hippie and pop culture revolution? The most memorable and least religiously connected part of the affair was the trip back to Far Rockaway on the coach bus my parents arranged for my 30 closest guy and girl friends. This was a hysterical, poorly thought out, non-chaperoned trip. The bus driver made two unscheduled stops to admonish us.

Next month, nine men who attended that Bar Mitzvah along with their significant others, my three siblings and their spouses, along with my two kids will come to our newly renovated home to help me usher in the sixth decade of my journey. A dozen of those attendees will remember the skinny, acne-faced boy, whose sarcastic manner would oftentimes land several of us in an uncomfortable situation. It didn’t help that from the time I was 16 until I was 18, I would carry around with me an Afro wearing black puppet that I named Lester. Lester had no filter and while some bouncers and bar patrons where amused by Lester, many were not.

The men who are coming to my 60th barbecue and knew me during that time still see and hear the Jack who teetered in the gray area. We laughingly retell the same embellished stories from our youth, tolerated by our spouses and having been absorbed skeptically by Zachary and Jessica.

I feel so fortunate to have the warmth and historical confirmation of those friends and the even more intimate companionship of my three younger siblings who know specifically why I got into so much trouble.

The knot in my stomach as I approach this chronological landmark not seen before by a masculine “Young” or “Fleischer” (my mom’s maiden name), is the passion, fire and commitment I have to still do and see: My grandchildren for sure, who I intend to ski with even if I have to stop and change their diaper halfway down the mountain; Zachary and Jessica’s weddings, although I have it on good authority that Jessica’s affair could be my ruination; sunsets on islands that Audrey and I have not shared; tomorrow, whose uncertainty and inevitable surprises keep me on my toes and ready to fight.

There’s a current song playing on the radio or your cell phone. Maybe that’s showing my age too much as the radio and cell phone may be one in the same. Written and sung by Lukas Graham, 7 Years, can get you pretty teary-eyed, particularly if your listen closely to the refrain, “soon I’ll be 60 years old, my daddy got 61…”

While my dad never got 61, I plan on blowing right through that number. For all the reasons listed above.

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