Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

By David Bornstein
The Good Word 



Some words are laced with extra meaning, built on levels of nuance and implied messages. Words like turning. If you’re “turning a corner” in your life you’ve gotten around some obstacle and are heading towards something better. If you’re “turning over a new leaf” you’ve gotten rid of an old habit or promised to be better on a going forward basis. If you know someone who’s “turning over in their grave” they’re so upset at something someone close to them has done they can’t keep still...even though they’re dead. If you’re “turning away” from something you see in front of you it’s because it’s making you sick. It’s just too horrible to watch. And then, of course, there’s turning a certain age.

Generally, this has to do with the birthdays that have a zero attached.  “He’s turning 30,” the Millenial might say. Or “She’s turning 90 next year” marks acknowledgement of reaching a grand old age. Many people are bothered by those zeros. They portend the end of an era, whether it’s no longer being a teenager, or a young twentysomething, or even middle-aged. I’ve always prided myself on not being bothered by a zero at the end of my age, or a five, for that matter. Where many people use these numbers as measuring sticks of failure or success, of growing old or obsolete, I’ve always said they don’t matter as long as you’re happy with who you are and you’re where you want to be.

I may be changing my story.

I’ve been writing in some form or other since I was 7 years old. I have an old copy of a Delaney Park Elementary newspaper that lists me as the editor when I was in second grade. And I’ve been writing this column for the past 15 years. So when I turned 59 this year I thought I’d think nothing of it. It’s not a big birthday. No milestones. No major benchmarks. Nothing to note.

Boy, was I wrong.

Ever since my birthday last March, I’ve been dwelling on my age. Not so much my current position, but what is pending next year. 60. There’s no avoiding it, and the other options—in particular not being there to welcome it in—aren’t very appealing. 

What is unavoidable is that there’s no pretending anymore. No way to make claims of youthfulness, or being cool or on top of trends that belie my age and make me seem, well, younger than I really am. I just am. On a going forward basis, I have to accept the fact that the greater portion of my life is past, and I am heading quickly, mercilessly if not quietly, into the latter quarter (or thereabouts) of my life.

Compared to our Jewish ancestors, I’m still a spring chicken. Abraham lived to be 175, Isaac 180, and Jacob 147. Moses died looking out over the promised land when he was a mere 120. Of course, that’s nothing compared to Adam (930) or Noah (950). Understanding as we do that these are either gross exaggerations or simply calculated differently, it still must be noted that it was important for the Torah to mark these ages, to let us know that our time on Earth is worth recounting, and that the oldest among us are presumed to have attained a special level of wisdom and authority based on experience.

Jay Leno takes another tack. He asks the all-important question, “At what age did I become invisible?” And he has decided it was at 50, when he noticed he could walk through a supermarket and no one looked at him. No pretty girls acknowledged he existed. No one under 30 did more than open a door for him or offer up their seat. I concur. I’ve been invisible to everyone but my wife, kids, and close friends for nearly a decade. And now even my children have a new name for me.

Old man.

So I’m left to ponder what it all means. Time telescopes. Seasons roll by. Children grow up and move on. And I’m staring ahead and looking back, admitting to myself that, while not decrepit, I’ve lost a step, that I don’t have as much ahead as behind, that I’ve grown both more patient and more curmudgeonly, more accepting on the one hand, and more dismissive on the other, more willing to say nothing when I have nothing to say, all of which I attribute to my age.

And that’s ok. It’s just a little odd.

So as I come to another last column for the year, I need to recognize the fact that other changes must occur as well. For those of you who have wondered where I’ve been, I’ll tell you I’ve been waiting. Waiting for some good words to say. Waiting for the right time. And that time is now. Time to pass the baton, to give this space to someone younger, fresher, more connected to our Jewish community now than I. If the Heritage permits, I’d like to help find my replacement. And I’d like to still contribute, when I have something worth contributing. But that will be less than before, as many things lessen with the passage of time. The pain of parting. The uncontrollable, indecipherable, impossible needs. The turning of pages and chapters in life.

I’m not gone for good. I’ll just be a little less present than before. I’ll miss you.

And that’s the good word until something worth writing about pops into my irreverent, iconoclastic, idiosyncratic brain. Send your thoughts, comments, and critiques to the Heritage or email dsb328@gmail.com. 


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