You’ve heard of so-called “eureka moments.” I have just had a “holy s@#!” moment, and for the life of me, I can’t see an end to it.
Because as I’m musing, trying to find whatever significance there may be in turning 50 along with Delaware Today, I’m discovering that 50, a milestone I’d always thought I’d pass without blinking, is a pretty freaky thing.
This I did not expect. Turning 40 had been a piece of cake. Forty was, I thought, the perfect age, a great excuse for something, and I’d vowed that as soon as I figured out what that something was, I was going to milk it. Then I was going to cruise past 50 like a teen dragging Main Street.
Whereupon I turned 43 and realized I hadn’t figured it out. Which was OK. I still had plenty of years, and I was having a damned good time. Then I turned 46, and I still hadn’t figured it out, though I was still having a damned good time. In Delaware Today I’d found a home for my work. I was married to Dina, a perfectly cool and beautiful woman. We had a nice home, plenty of loving family, good friends. I had long ago given up on a younger man’s more foolish notions. There was nothing huge left to accomplish.
Sure, I had some unfinished business, some personal goals I still wanted to achieve. But there was none of the remorse or regret or ennui that leads to a major mid-life crisis, no reason to begin cavorting with young women, no reason to buy a sports car or run off to the Himalayas (all activities I’m sure Dina would have taken a pretty dim view of).
Then, a miracle.
In drops Emedio Albert Nardone, 5 pounds and 8 ounces of the universe compressed into something with the gravitational attraction of—of an I-don’t-know-what, whatever the densest object in the universe is (other than my skull). One whose face reflected a bit of every family member Dina and I love most. One whose eyes showed a light that made me wonder all over again about the larger intelligence or spirit at work in the created world. One whom I had known forever, though I hadn’t realized that until we met.
This is ironic because, 15 years ago, I was well acquainted with several 50-year-old gentlemen who were becoming fathers. My reaction to their proud and happy announcements was pretty much, Are they insane?
As it turns out, I’m the crazy one. Just when I’d begun to think life couldn’t get much fuller, it opens wide, admits something with a value out of all proportion to its size. And that is beautiful beyond words.
Which makes me realize that Delaware Today, for a big part of our 50 common years, has also occupied a disproportionately large place in my life. For 20 years it has been the place where I’ve done my most gratifying work, and it has been the backdrop for the biggest life events—a wedding, a birth, the making of new friends, the loss of a few old ones and a few others dearest to me.
And now, I have just come to understand, it has become the backdrop to another big event: my much delayed mid-life crisis. I suddenly realize that a young man’s more foolish notions aren’t so foolish, and I have a cohort in crime, should I choose to explore them at 70. But most of all, I suddenly find myself trying to answer a question: What is most important to teach this child?
I’ve spent a career here asking questions for the benefit of others. The answer to this one may not be readily apparent, but it’s out there. As I’ve finally learned, all things come in due time.
And I’ve learned one other thing: A newborn will change your perspective on age. Fifty really is the new 30—but it requires a whole lot more sleep.