A lawyer looks at 50

A lawyer looks at 50.

It’s official. I am now closer to 50 than I am 49. My wife keeps telling me, “It is just a number.” She’s right, it is. I’m not going into anxiety attacks over the fact I’m getting older. Perhaps Jimmy Buffett said it best, when he sang, “I’m growing older, not up.”

Eisenhower was President when I was born. I have the dimmest memories of the Kennedy funeral. I was ten and spending a wonderful day at the lakeside house of some friends of my parents in July 1969. The adults hung out and grilled while we kids swam in the pool, and the lake, ran around the woods, then came into the house to watch man land on the moon. I remember the 72 Olympics and .25 cent a gallon gas. I remember Nixon resigning and being a college freshman, trying to scrape together money just for gas, as it went through the roof. I remember President Reagan telling Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” I was in law school when the Challenger blew up. Working in Memphis when the first World Trade Center attack happened and running my own law practice on September 11th.

When I was a kid, I would dream of the future. Back then; I dreamed I would be pilot and fly off to all kinds of exotic places. And I can remember saying, in 1979, I’ll be twenty, and 89, 30, and 99, 40 and in 2009, I’ll be 50. Suddenly, the future is upon me, whether I like it or not.

The day before the Presidential election was a beautiful day in the south. The weather was mild. The sky was clear and beautiful and we drove to Memphis to bury my father. He grew up during the depression, so some of the events of the summer and fall might have sounded familiar to him, but for the Alzheimer’s that had taken his memory. We arrived at the funeral home and I saw family and friends, many of whom I had not seen in years. A Methodist minister conducted the service, whom I suspect barely knew my father. She screwed up the eulogy and at one point announced that my brother and I had been born in Holland. That certainly came as news to us, the Government of the Netherlands and the State of Tennessee, who are all firmly convinced we were born in Memphis.

The hearse with my father drove to the cemetery. A Tennessee Army National Guard Honor Guard waited. The soldiers in their formal blue uniforms with linen white gloves stood at attention and saluted his casket, rendering honors, one final time. The burial rite was mercifully brief. The honor guard fired a volley and the haunting strains of taps filled the air. Then with slow, deliberation, two soldiers folded the American flag that had covered my father’s casket, and then presented it to my mother, as a symbol of my father’s service, “with the thanks of a grateful nation.”

With that, my father was gone.

A few years ago, I was watching a movie, where one of the lead characters opined, that, ‘you wake up one day and realize you have more days behind you than you do in front of you.’ At 50, my father had more behind him than he had in front of him. At 50, his mother did not. He made it to 89, while she made it to 106.

As I face my 50th birthday, I now wonder, how many more days do I have in front of me. What will this future hold? When I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s it was a different America. School kids said the pledge of allegiance to the flag, every day. And, gasp, we even prayed in school. Can we say this country is now better off than it was back then?

Today, politicians sell the American birthright to the highest bidder or to the group that they think will help them win the next election. My father had a long life. His mother had a longer life. What is in store for me? Perhaps a life as long if not longer, provided the Democrats, who are now in control of the government don’t screw up the best health care system in the world.

As I think about the future, I think not only about my future, but the future of my children. It will take my youngest another 45 years to reach 50. His 50th birthday will be in the year 2054. I’ll be 95, if I’m still around. Every generation of American has been able to pass this country along, better than they found it. That has been the inheritance of every American. Unfortunately, if things do not change, I fear the inheritance my children will receive.

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