Tuesday, May 2, 2017

FAMILY

On April 28, 1951, we were two twenty-one year old college kids skipping our classes at the University of Detroit to honeymoon at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago.

She still has the key to that 14th floor suite.

It was a four day whirlwind. We saw the classic musical “South Pacific,” and “The Moon is Blue” on the stage. One night, we caught the comedy team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis at a night club.

We went back to Chicago last week, celebrating sixty-six years of marriage.
It’s a different city, of course. The Edgewater Beach is gone, sacrificed to the widening of Lake Shore Drive.

Still, Chicago is the toddlin’ town of story and song. We dined at RL, the campy restaurant under Ralph Loren’s roof. We looked down on the Navy Pier from an 18th floor suite at the Ritz Carlton.

And we went to the Private Bank Theater to see “Hamilton.” It turned out to be everything we had heard about it; a faithful recounting of the life of the man whose face is on the ten dollar bill, performed with incredible vigor and verve by a talented cast of young Americans.

It’s not a musical comedy; it’s not an opera or an operetta. The story is told in the urgent rhythm of rap music, with its random rhymes and sassy vocabulary. I dubbed it a “Rapera” and I predict there will be more of it on stage in New York and elsewhere in the years ahead.

I confess that I gave in to the wonder of celebrating a marriage that has lasted for two thirds of a century. Waiters and clerks, cab drivers and doormen; they all respond with good cheer and friendly smiles when you tell them that you are celebrating sixty six years of marriage.

And, of course, being a classically presumptive pedant, I can’t resist posing a quiz to one and all. “Do you know who was President in 1951?”

I chuckle in my eighty-seven year old superiority as I tell them it was Harry Truman. I chuckle, that is, until I realize that if someone had asked me when I was thirty years old, “Who was president 66 years ago?” I would not have known it was Grover Cleveland.

There are, indeed times when I feel like a visitor from another planet. Coming back to Lansing after a number of years, I marvel at new buildings, new land marks, old roads going new places.

This morning I will meet a new primary care physician, and later this week there will be a CT scan and more meetings with the oncologist and the urologist.

Polly was an orphan when I married her in 1951. I promised her that she would never be alone again. She isn’t. We aren’t. We are surrounded by loving family.

Neither of us ever wanted or expected to be a burden to our children. On the other hand, we didn’t expect them to eagerly anticipate our every need, as seems to be the case.

The fact is that the family is the basic unit of society; the existential structure than combines individual human beings like atoms in a molecule to create an identifiable substance. And children are essential.

The family is the first unit of human governance. The first church. The first school. The first hospital. The first court and the first jail. It is also the first choir, the first theater, the first team.

We knew those things instinctively sixty six years ago.

Now we are learning the rest of the story. Be good to your kids because they will decide what to do with you when you get old. Our family decided that we should move back to Lansing, and through a massive cooperative effort, they have ensconced us in a charming condominium at the Burcham Hills Retirement Center.

Not that either of us intend to retire. If our first days at the condo are any measure, the future will be busy, interesting and memorable. 

And Chicago is only an hour away by airplane.

No comments:

Post a Comment