Monday, September 05, 2011

Glancin' in the rearview mirror...

September is normally my time to look forward.  A new school year awaits, fresh with promise,  the smell of a new lunchbox and the feel of a new wardrobe.  It has all the excitement of New Year's Day and the same sense of new beginnings.  It is typically a time for planning and anticipation.

But this year the onset of September demands some retrospective.  One reason is painfully obvious.  You can't go anywhere without being reminded of the tenth anniversary of that day in 2001 when we all came to terms with our vulnerability as a nation.  None of us can forget the iconic images of that day and the exact sequence of details as they unfolded.  We all have our own personal connections to that day.  I didn't know anyone first hand who died that day but a very dear family friend lost her son, a man I never met, but who was part of the large Irish community in New York where my husband grew up.

Inwood Heights, at the very northern tip of Manhattan lost dozens of its most promising sons and daughters.  Most of them attended Good Shepherd, the same small Catholic grammar school as my husband Brendan.  They were policemen, firemen, construction workers, cooks and Wall Street traders.  One story tells of traders descending the towers encountering their firefighter classmates ascending the stairs.  Brendan didn't know them all, but recognized many of the last names and remembered siblings.  The families were often large and always close-knit.  A New York Times article I found describes the uniqueness of growing up in Inwood in the sixties and seventies and the devastating impact 9/11 had on this community.

Sonuvagun, if it isn't Dominion - New York Times

A garden memorial in The Church of the Good Shepherd remembers the many alumni of the school that perished that day.

Inwood's fallen heroes: 9/11 memorial garden gives kin comfort

I visited that neighborhood many, many times before my mother-in-law's death in 1996.  Her funeral was held in the same church where many of these heroes were memorialized.  I can attest to the special bond these neighbors had.  I heard the unmistakable lilt of an irish brogue as people greeted each other or mothers called to their children. Although the demographics were changing rapidly in the late 70's as the younger people scattered to the suburbs to be replaced by a wave of hispanic residents, it was still considered home base, the place to return for nurturance and familiarity.  Never was that more evident than in those dark days after September 11, 2001.

This September brings me another, more deeply personal reason for introspection.  I have a milestone birthday looming later this month.  I find it impossible to believe, but I am staring down the barrels of the big 6-0.  Those of you who have been there will assure me that it is just a number and, perhaps, even that "life begins at 60."  But I am having a bit of a problem swallowing that.  When I was growing up, sixty was OLD ... ancient ... decrepit ...feeble ...senile ...early-bird specials...big ugly blue sedan driving at 10mph.  People who were sixty fell asleep at seven PM and told the same story nine times.  But wait!  I don't feel that way.  Yeah, I've got gray hair and wrinkles but I can still carry on a lucid conversation and I don't drool.  I do repeat stories but only two or three times.  I have all of my own teeth.  I actually don't need to wear glasses to drive anymore...although they keep making the godddamn print smaller in the phone book and on packaging so I can't read it even WITH my glasses on!

So I think I'll celebrate this milestone instead of cringe at its onset.  I might even take myself out to dinner and have a few beers.  Hell, I'll throw caution to the wind and order a giant dessert!  After all, I'm only 60 once and even if I don't remember every event in every one of the previous 59 years that got me here I know I've had one hell of a ride!!  Cheers to me!

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