A 71st Birthday

Let enough time pass and certain things become more obvious than ever. An acknowledgement, for instance, of the truth of “Katie Nolan’s” observation to daughter “Francie” in Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn that the only printed works that really matter are the Bible and the works of Shakespeare. So why, I ask myself, am I frittering away precious fleeting hours reading A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe (732 pages!!!)? Or Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit/Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft and the Golden Age of Journalism (winner of the Pulitzer Prize)? Or Suzanne Marrs’ biography of Eudora Welty, the late great Mississippi writer—whom I so admire? Furthermore, what possible purpose could there be in growing my collection of books at this juncture of what Billy Graham calls “The Journey”? What gain in acquiring more of the books I deem to be essential enough to claim as my own; those bestsellers by name authors and those hardcover classics that I have obtained from the free shelf at the Worcester Public Library, from the $1-or-leave-a-donation rack at the Hannaford supermarket in Uxbridge, from antique stores and yard sales? Am I not deluding myself to think that in the selective accumulation of “important” literature I will be viewed as “erudite,” “learned” or having obtained an admirable degree of “sophistication”? Or perhaps I just have in mind bequeathing to an institution—in the manner of a Jefferson— the whole enchilada. “Take them, and remember me as someone who gave the best gift of all”—as John Monfredo of the Worcester School Committee and “The City That Reads” initiative would put it in asserting that a child will grow immeasurably by reading twenty minutes or longer each and every day. There comes with the status of “septuagenarian” both profound appreciation for having more time for family and those meaningful personal pursuits that have long been squeezed by outside obligations and a sobering awareness that the clock is ticking seemingly more rapidly than ever. Hence an even stronger urge to seize the day. Bruce Springsteen recognizes this phenomenon and he is only sixtyseven. Which may partly explain Mr. Springsteen’s need to put on recordshattering four hour-plus concerts at Fenway Park and elsewhere. In an interview with Brian Hiatt in the October 20th issue of Rolling Stone that coincides with publication of his “intimate” autobiography Born to Run, “The Boss” was asked about a comment he made on stage that “the older you get, the more [the show] means.” “Is that,” Mr. Hiatt inquired, “the finiteness?” It is indeed, Mr. Springsteen replied. The intensity that the audience brings to such marathon performances means that “they experience the finiteness also,” he told Mr. Hiatt. “You can appreciate it a little more.” All of those in attendance—Mr. Springsteen, his fellow musicians, the fans, the media— feed off the realization that the show has to end sometime. As does life itself. Like Mr. Springsteen, my friend Rocco Froio feels the encroachment of age—although he is younger than either of us. A onetime “Tough Mudder” who prides himself on staying in shape, Mr. Froio is the owner of an exquisitely-appointed gentlemen’s clothing store on Park Avenue in Worcester. After years of toeing the line as a tailor and fashion advisor to doctors, lawyers, bankers, corporate executives and other professionals, he recently decided to “cut back.” He is now letting son Tony open the store at 10:00, coming in himself around noon, and bringing daughter Tess into the business as well. Mr. Froio and his wife Christine also just spent a relaxing two weeks in his native Italy, and France. They walked a total of “one hundred twenty miles,” by his estimate, taking in the sights. They encountered no “situations,” but in heading to a church set high enough on a hill that some people choose to pay to ride a tram to reach it, a woman in Muslim garb was denied entrance by security personnel for refusing to reveal even part of her face. “She immediately started talking to someone on her cell phone,” Mr. Froio said. “That’s when I said, ʽChristine, I think it’s time we got out of here!’” Being conscious that more years have slipped by than are left, I identify with Mr. Froio’s decision to enjoy the fruits of his labors. Seeing Venice, Florence and the architecture and museums of Europe, savoring good food, staying in an Airbnb room in Paris, riding “The Metro” (“the best system I have ever seen,” he said) has enormous appeal. As do junkets closer to home. How to make it happen? Maybe it’s time to sell the motorcycle, for starters. Vacations don’t come cheap


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