By Louis De Lauro
I can’t believe that 50 years of life is just three months away. 50 is a hard number to dismiss.
I have friends my age that run and play. Friends who 5K, 10K, and tough-mudder their way through life. I watch them run and play on social media and occasionally in person, and I cheer them on. I sat down on a big chair tonight at 7 pm with broken knees and a neck that can only move a bit. I’m overweight; I’m underpaid. My grey hair is colored brown. I am exhausted. I clearly have two—maybe three—chins.
I really wanted to watch the Yankee playoff game, but I fell asleep from 8:00 to 11:00. That’s not a nap; it’s three hours of necessary sleep for an exhausted man. There would be no concert tonight for me or even a movie. There would be no Yankee game—just sleep.
Nearly 30 years of 60 hour work weeks have taken their toll on me. I am 50 in a few months. Maybe I can pass for 48, but I feel like I’m 60, maybe 70 on some days. I take care of my wife and daughter the best I can. Every penny I earn I give to them. I have no fancy toys or expensive joys.
I have seen my wife suffer through more surgeries than I can count. I have seen three students that I devoted a good part of my life to die young. I have seen many friends and family get sick and suffer, or get sick and die. I’m battered and bruised.
Tonight I woke up before midnight. The Yankees lost 7-1. They are not World Series bound yet I think, but I know they will try again tomorrow. Tomorrow they will do their best to carry on, and I will carry on tomorrow too.
All the words I wrote above don’t have to matter to me tomorrow. Tomorrow is a new day.
Sure, I can sleep in the big chair again if I need to, but I don’t have to. Maybe I will feel young tomorrow. Maybe my knees will work just enough so that I can play tennis with my daughter at the park. Maybe I will take my wife and daughter to lunch. Maybe I will call my buddy and go see Rutgers beat Purdue, or lose to Purdue—it doesn’t matter because I will be with my buddy. Even if Rutgers loses, they still have next week.
Maybe tomorrow evening I will stop by and see my funny Italian American parents and I will bring them fruit. I always bring them fruit; I am trying my best to keep them young. Let’s be honest, I am trying my best to keep them alive. Maybe I will sit with them and laugh and drink some coffee and eat some pie. I love pie. Pie is enough reason for me to embrace a new day!
Maybe I will read a book tomorrow. Maybe I will write a poem or another blog. Maybe at some point tomorrow, I will talk with my daughter about her art. Maybe she will show me her sketch pad, and I will give her a unique idea. Maybe I will take her and her friends mini-golfing or to the mall. Maybe tomorrow my ridiculous cat will sit on my lap for five minutes and pretend that she likes me as much as I like her.
Or maybe tomorrow is a nightmare. It might be; you never know. Or maybe it’s not a good day, but it is not quite as bad as tonight. The best thing about being almost 50 is I fully accept the suffering. Hell, some days I really embrace it.
Life likes to punch me in the face. Sometimes I cry; sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I return a series of punches and kicks. Bad knees and all, I can still kick. My life is awful, my life is amazing, and my life is just okay.
I love this life. I love the exhausted, beaten, broken man on the big chair with the knees that don’t work; the man who fell asleep during the game he really wanted to watch. He is me. The funny, loving, inspiring husband, dad, son, friend, colleague? He is me too.
The Yankees get another chance tomorrow, and so do I. If the Yankees lose and if I lose, we will still see another day.
P.S. The Yankees will have to wait until April, but Sunday will be another new day for me. I wrote this column for you more than me; I’m okay. I’m going to watch one episode of the Goldbergs on Demand (it’s such a funny show) before I go to sleep for the night. It’s a good thing to laugh before you go to sleep at night. I am looking forward to tomorrow.
Seriously, I’m okay. I hope you are okay too.
Louis De Lauro has taught elementary and middle school students for 27 years in NJ and PA. He is also a loving husband, dad, son, and friend. In April of 2017, his short story about his wife and daughter “Right from the Start” was published in “Chicken Soup for the Soul, Best Mom Ever.” Back in 2007, Louis was featured in the award-winning documentary “Juggling Life” about the charity he founded, Juggling Life Inc. The charity recruits and trains volunteers to teach juggling and chess at camps for children with cancer. In 2008, he was featured in a Star Ledger Series called “I Am New Jersey.” In 2011, Louis had four submissions published in the Pearson textbook, “Child and Adolescent Development” by Woolfolk and Perry. Louis enjoys writing about teaching, family, friendship, and Buddhism.
Editor: John Pendall