Thursday, May 24, 2007

Half-Century Man

You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.

Don't let yourself indulge in vain wishes.

--Rabindranath Tagore

So now it’s official. I’m 50 years old today.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been around for half a century. Five decades. Fifty years. A hell of a lot of time.

It doesn't like that when I look over my life, but when you say fifty years--fifty years--it's kind of scary.

I just got off the phone with my brother in San Francisco and we talked about how time just disappears, how what seems like an eternity in childhood just flies by when you're an adult.

So let's look back a little, shall we? On this day in history, the Brooklyn Bridge opened in 1883.

The first public parking garage opened its doors in 1899; Samuel Morse sent the first telegraphic message—“What hath God wrought?”—1844, and the Marx Brothers first movie, "The Cocoanuts," opened in 1929.

And, on this day in 1957, Robert Kent Lenihan was born in Shore Road Hospital in beautiful Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The hospital was torn down years ago, but I’ll still kicking, more or less.

I’ve got the usual complaints about not being where I want to be at this point in my life, but I’ve beaten that drum for so long, even I can’t stand the sound of it. Enough already, live your goddamn life and enjoy it.

So today I’ll celebrate. I’m thankful to have made it this far and I pray that I’ll be around many more years.

It was such a beautiful day in New York today that I’ve decided to take credit for it. This lovely weather has been sent to our city in honor of my birthday.

The day started early with my sister calling me at about 7:15 am—while I was meditating—to wish me a happy birthday and do her Sally O’Malley impersonation. (“You’re 50! 50 years old!”)

I should mention here that both my sister and good friend Sal each gave me the same birthday card.

It features a picture of luscious young woman taking a shower while saying “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Inside the card, it reads “I asked her if she thought you were old.” Zing!

I finally recovered from Saturday’s birthday extravaganza, but I was pretty much useless for most of Sunday. My bud Hank took me out of Tuesday to the Five Points Restaurant on Great Jones Street and tonight my sister and I went to my aunt’s house for dinner.

On the way into work this morning I bought a plastic poppy from a World War II veteran. He was standing on Wall Street trying to get donations for veterans, but no one was paying much attention to him.

In Flanders Fields, the Poppies Blow

I think many people don't know the meaning of Memorial Day, while others just don't want to part with the money. I gave the man a dollar and told him my dad had fought in the war.

"Is he still around?" he asked.

"No," I said, "he's gone."

"So many of them are," he said.

"God bless you," I said, and went to work. It didn't occur to me until an hour later that this may have been the same man I spoke with a year ago, back when my dad was still alive. It's nice to think so.

This being Thursday I decided to go to Trinity Church for the laying on of the hands.

I’ve done this a few times before and I’ve always found it comforting. I was feeling pretty good today and I started to panic as I lined up to receive the blessing (is that what they call it? I’m Catholic, so I’m not sure).

You’re not suffering, I scolded myself. You shouldn’t be here. You’re a fraud.

I thought of my grandmother, Clorinda Ferrari, who shared a birthday with me. She died when I was in the fifth grade and I asked her not to get angry with me for taking part in a protestant ceremony.

Then I calmed down. I didn’t have to be a basket case to take part in this ceremony, so I stepped forward and told the woman (Reverend? I really have to get this straight.) that I was fifty years old today.

“Happy Birthday,” she said, smiling.

“I never thought I’d be this old,” I said.

She laughed, said that 50 isn’t old anymore, and I told her that I was still trying to find my way. The reverend put her hands on my head and encouraged me to believe in God, to dare with God, to walk with God.

It was such a lovely experience that any kind of guilt I had melted away. Guilt is such a Catholic trait anyway. I don't think the Episcopalians have much to do with it and I'm sure they're better off.

This service never ceases to amaze me: here I am, a 21st Century man, a believer in science and technology, yet I so love this religious ceremony that flies in the face of all things logical.

I love it because for about 30 seconds some one in this cold, nasty world actually cares about you and tries to help. Some days we have trouble getting much from people.

While I was waiting for the service to begin, I picked up a pamphlet to check out the basics of the Episcopal Church.

I'm not sure if I wanted to change teams, so to speak, but I do like some of the aspects of the church, including the female priests.

Also, the Episcopal Church seems less dour and forbidding than the Catholics. It appears to run on positive energy rather than fear. But I had scrap the whole idea when I saw the Episcopalians don't have saints.

I'm sure there are very valid reasons for this, but I've got to have my boys. I've been praying to St. Martin for so long, I can't just turn around and give the guy the heave-ho. I guess I'll just have to swing by Trinity Church as a visitor rather than as a team member.

So that was my day, the anniversary of my birth. I can't say it was terribly exciting, but I am sure glad to be here. Now it's time to walk with God.


Dave Richards said...

Happy Birthday!!! Have a great day...hope there's lot of fun and laughter for you...enjoy your special day!!!!

Donna said...

First I was too early, now I'm too late.

Happy Birthday Rob!

May you have a year filled with joy, hope & love and the health to enjoy it all :)

Rob K said...

Thank you both so much.

Donna, I have to tell you that you gave the greatest advise regarding my party.

I feel so foolish about the way I worried and sweated over that thing. The lesson is clear: when it doubt, listen to Donna.

Donna said...

Throwing a party is one of my most favorite things to do, I'm a natural party planner. So, if I ever decide to move back to the East, you can leave all the gory details to me!

((runs and hides afraid someone will take her seriously mwaa haa haaa))

Anonymous said...

I felt so betrayed as a youth when my heroes the Dodgers left Brooklyn, that I vowed NEVER to ever watch a baseball game again...
Now you remind me that I made that vow 50 years ago.... OMG!!! I'm getting old! ;)

Happiest of Birthdays dear Bro... it gets better from now on... take it from me.

Rob K said...

Hey, thanks, Peace. Very kind of you.

And remember,we're not getting older, we're getting...oy! who am I kidding?!? We are getting older!!! Help!!!