Monday, July 18, 2011

ON TURNING 40


     I used the same headline for myself, some 29 years ago when a weekly Column Rule essay in The Journal-News touched generically on the coming of one’s fourth decade and specifically my own. It was a sum of amazement, reflection, regret, gratitude and fear of the road ahead.
Now my oldest son, namesake Arthur IV, has himself so quickly arrived at the gate, though he hardly seems older than my memories of him and his brother Andrew --  having pillow fights, learning to ride a bike, studying in the third grade, in the seventh, high school, college. Does a parent ever see his offspring without a flash of the mind’s photo album?
Yet our oldest is hard to miss as an adult since -- and this is praise -- his act is together and has been since he could first make decisions for himself. He is bright; he is fit, running and winning road races as he has since middle school; he is a hard and diligent worker, a fine school teacher by any standard.
Arthur IV is a family man who more than shares parental duties, housecleaning, diaper changing, etc. His hours are always long, and he  continues his teacher’s voice long after the work day, since he is an instructor, too, to his son Sam, 4, and daughter Beatrice, 2. He is also their partner in crime, passing on some of the harmless shenanigans that he learned growing up with an odd father.
My son is a true Rocklander, cognizant of his lower Hudson Valley, N.Y., roots -- not going back as far as the original county families but by modern standards four generations anyway. He has lived in various places in college and has visited here and there, but Rockland is home, though that was never a requirement. Home is where you make it. Arthur rails against county overdevelopment, complains about political decisions and wonders why there is so much suburbia and not enough village living. That is why he chose to move to the Nyacks, where he can take his children to the library, to the ice cream shop, to the Hudson River, to Hook Mountain for a hike, all on foot. He knows his neighbors, and they know him. 
What is next for my 40-year-old son? Good health, I pray. More running (his high school bumper sticker -- “Run Forever” -- is still on our garage wall). Decades of proud years as his own family grows. Many, many seasons in the old home he and his wife Laura bought, a place that particularly fits my son’s personality. I will tell him not to have too much fear. At 40, I worried about career, money, health, life’s purpose.  I revisited old doubt, had confidence challenged. There was so much unknown ahead. And there still is. Having traveled almost 29 years beyond 40, though, I can say that the benefits of life, if you are so fortunate -- of children maturing, of relationships enduring, of reflected appreciation for one’s roots, new challenges, joy and tears, life itself -- all are behind the many doors in the long hallway past 40.
Have a fine walk, my -- our -- son. 

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