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The Column: Nothing like watching your kids slide into middle age

The younger of our four children turned 50 the other day.

We gave him a party and bought him Mets tickets.

A word about the Mets tickets:

I ordered them on the computer, but they were earmarked “digital delivery.” That meant I was supposed to download a smartphone app and retrieve the tickets in some electronic form.

Good luck.

Stumped, I called the Mets. A pleasant young woman helped me print tickets through the computer as I have done for years. That probably won’t be possible much longer, said the Mets rep. Digital is the future. App-solutely.

This was another of those moments where you feel the world rushing by as if, in a dream, you are stuck to the floor at Penn Station while commuters race for the 5:53 to Ronkonkoma. Outta’ the way, pal, you’re holding up progress.

There is plenty to remind us that, yes, time flies and everything is in flux — what do you think of driverless cars, by the way, or cryptocurrency? — but for high-octane angst not much matches the slide into middle age of your own children.


Gee, you think, wasn’t it yesterday that he curled up in my lap like a beagle pup and we watched “Happy Days” together? Is this same tiny slugger who could smack my Wiffle ball offerings to the end of the driveway? What happened to the teenage pizza driver who dented our car twice one snowy night hustling to deliver a pepperoni pie?

“Heh-heh, catching up,” you can joke to a son at his half-century mark but — heh-heh, yourself — there is no chance of that. Nope, my lead is commanding and unsurpassable.  

Fear not. This will not unravel into a weepy discourse on impermanence or plea that we stand and join in a chorus of, “Nearer My God to Thee.”

Nope. I’m taking the advice of an old friend.

“One day at a time,” he said recently hoping to halt another of my riffs on mortality.

Kids in their 50s, I persisted. A granddaughter in college. A grandson with two children of his own. Friends wearing knee braces and teetering on canes. Somebody in rehab after another hip replacement. A pal who came this close after a cardiac scare. And don’t get me started on the obits. Exactly, how did this happen?

My friend took another bite of an enormous BLT at the local diner as if to say, “What, me worry?”      

He’s got the idea.

Phooey on eternity. Let’s get to the party.

Our son is a city cat and the affair was at a small Syrian restaurant in Brooklyn called First Oasis.

Tables were sagging with plates of hummus, baba ganoush, falafel, stuffed grape leaves and pita. That was before Said, the owner, sent kebabs, salmon, kibbeh balls, salad, rice and — in a nod toward international understanding that suggests Said should cater the next G-7 meeting — chicken fingers and fries for those happiest with American roadhouse cuisine.

It was a nice crowd, 25 or so. Black, white, gay, straight, native born and newcomer.

“The way it ought to be,” said one guest in his 80s who everyone called, “Pops.”

Midway through, Hanna, the belly dancer arrived, unannounced.

With a gossamer shawl lined with little white lights, Hanna gave an invigorating performance.  

At one point, she danced with a headpiece of flaming birthday candles. At another, Hanna summoned guests to join her. Our son, whose uncertain sense of rhythm can be traced genetically to his father, gave it his best shot. His brother did the same. Someone else got up to shimmy. Hanna sent them all away, smiling.  

Later, I spoke to her.

Turns out Hanna — her stage name — is not Syrian but, no kidding, an architect from Brazil with belly dancing as a sideline. As a surprise, Said asked her to provide entertainment. When the music starts, Hanna could make you forget Frank Lloyd Wright.

We ended the afternoon with a round of “Happy Birthday” and sheet cake imported from Long Island.

I gave a slice to Hanna along with a pair of the plastic Mets sunglasses we brought as party favors. She was sitting at the end of the bar with her mother, visiting from Brazil. With a trace of Portuguese, Hanna said, “We love Mets.”

Guests packed up and waited for their rides. Everyone promised to stay in touch, as people always do.

First Oasis was empty. My son was 50. One day at a time.


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