One day in 1968, while I was attending Dowling College on the extended eight year matriculation plan, I got the courage to ask Janet out on a date. We had been talking in the school lounge for weeks and I was, in a word, smitten. And I was shocked when she said yes.
By the time I got to her house that Friday night, it started snowing rather heavily so we scrapped our plans for a movie and instead spent several hours sitting on her cushy couch in her basement, listening to the music of “Blood Sweat and Tears” and “The Brooklyn Bridge.” At one point, Janet started fussing with my hair, which was modeled like Paul’s hair on the cover of “Revolver.” She couldn’t keep her fingers out of my mop and at one point she said I reminded her of a “Pooh Bear.” Now, for those of you who are reading this from the gutter, let me say for the record that, no, we didn’t “do it.” We just had a wonderful, somewhat intimate and innocent evening. I was on Cloud Nine. Then, within two weeks, she was dating one of my fraternity brothers and they ultimately got married. We basically lost touch. Oh well.
Then a few months ago, aided by a few glasses of Amaretto (I could have said a “few beers” to enhance my machismo image, but I’d be lying), the memory of that night came back to me. Before you could say “God Bless Mark Zuckerberg,” I found her on Facebook! I sent her a message and it took her a few weeks to respond. Reconnected, I actually called her on a telephone (a land line no less) and I was suddenly catapulted back to 1968. Coincidentally, I had a trip planned to New York City and, since she lived only a short train ride away, we decided to meet for lunch in the Big Apple.
Like many folks here in Mount Vernon (good segue for Mount Vernon Patch, huh?) I don’t enjoy the prospect of getting old. Check that, I am old. I don’t like relish the thought of getting older. One reason is that the men in my family generally don’t last very long, just about all of them died before they were 40. So, I’ve got this thing about mortality and often find myself daydreaming about the days when I could play 5 softball games in one day then party all weekend. So, one motivation in catching up with Janet was to talk about those bygone, carefree days. On the other hand, I was totally petrified to see her.
We planned to meet at Grand Central Station. I got there 40 minutes early. I was nervous that she would not recognize me. You know how it is, when you see an old friend after so many years and they stare at you and say “Ron, is that really you?” Of course, what they really mean to say is “Ron, what happened to you?” So, I stood in the middle of the station, holding my stomach in, sweating in anticipation that Janet would just walk right by me.
When we made contact, I was thrilled that she didn’t have to look at me twice – and visa versa. “Ronnie! You look great!” I replied, “So do you!” And I wasn’t lying. Aside from a pair of glasses that distorted her beautiful chocolate brown eyes, it was clearly Janet. We went to lunch and talked for almost four hours, reminiscing about friends alive and not alive, catching up on the past 40 years or so. We recalled our obsession with The Beatles, the frat parties, the football games. I could have talked for four more hours. And when it was time to go, we hugged and, as I watched her head towards the train station, my eyes started to tear up.
I have an amazing, beautiful wife and in a month we will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. But I have to admit that there are times when I yearn for the more innocent days, the days when our responsibilities were not so overwhelming. Although the 1960’s were filled with great turbulence and change, today’s world seems so much harsher. We are afraid to think out loud, to commit, to change our minds lest we be called a “flip flopper.” Every day is a chore as we are barraged with headlines about global warming, political scandal, child kidnappings. Sometimes I just feel like a punching bag. And, at the same time, there is that persistent worry about that pain in my chest or that day when my doctor tells me that the cancer is inoperable.
Some days I just wish I were Pooh Bear again.