One evening Brenda and I were in Cleveland sitting in a lounge when three Irishmen stood up and began to give advice in song as only Irishmen can do. “If you ever go across the sea to Ireland” they sang.
Being Irish and capable of becoming a bit melancholy, the music set the tone for me for what was to come next.
Soon, a gentleman about my age, with flowing gray hair and a large acoustic guitar, replaced the Irishmen on stage.
The singer sang a couple of up-tempo songs, and then turned down the lights.
“This is the time I like to loosen my tie, take off my coat, and talk about doing things for the first time. We like to hold on to those days, at least in our minds. If you are aging, like I am, you see time passing much too hastily,” he told the audience.
“This song was made popular by Frank Sinatra a few years ago,” the singer said, as he sang the first bars of “The September of My Years” in a rich, baritone voice. “One day you turn around and it’s summer. Next day you turn around and it’s fall, And the springs and the winters of a lifetime. Whatever happened to them all?”
The song reinforced something I’ve already known. Time, at least for me, has been passing more quickly, and then like a thief in the night, quietly stealing away.
The passing of years, in gentle and subtle ways, has wrought an emotional change within my life.
What I need to feel contentment in my life has changed. It takes less to make me happy.
I don’t focus on the frivolous anymore. My family is the most important part of my life.
Where has the time gone? “It seems like only yesterday,” we say.
We find ourselves at a point in life where time has transformed us. We desire to reach out to those we have hurt; say what needs to be said, and to make amends for when we were young and reckless.
As the gentleman continued singing, I thought back to the first time playing Little League baseball at the City Park. The score was tied. My teammates and parents were cheering. A fastball chest high came sailing into the plate. I swung like Casey at the Bat, but this time bat met ball, and the baseball sailed over the right field fence.
Then there was the first time on the basketball court, in the sixth grade, at mid-court I stole the basketball from one of the New Antioch Red Raiders and went on to sink a lay-up. I looked over and saw my mom smiling and dad cheering along with the rest of our neighbors and friends in the old Port William gym.
I have been very fortunate in life, and experienced many other “firsts” that may have been more significant than the home run or basket. But, as I listened to the man sing, my mind went back to those early times.
As kids, we became excited for those small victories that happen for the first time. But as we grow older and face tougher obstacles and greater difficulties, we realize we are adults and are expected to overcome them.
A friend and I were talking a couple of weeks ago when she recounted the first time her father came to see her march in the high school band. He had been sick and couldn’t get out of the house. Then one Friday night he showed up at the football field and watched her march down the field.
Her tears told the story.
When my son Greg was on the reserve basketball team, he sank a basket from just outside the three-point line. The crowd cheered. I jumped straight up from my seat, fist pumping like Tiger Woods.
I knew something Greg didn’t yet know: that when the ball went into that net, he had done something that would be with him the rest of his life. It was the first time he made a three-point shot. If you ask him today about that basket, he will relate it had the same impact the home run and stolen ball had on me.
We really don’t get many of these kinds of moments in a lifetime, but our minds remember the first time we do something, and tuck the joy and happiness away deep in our being somewhere.
We cherish those little life events from our childhood that may have seemed momentary and ordinary at the time, but have managed to stay with us our entire lives.
For many of us, the first time is truly the best time.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County commissioner.