B. Jay Cooper takes us on a little trip down memory lane...
First published in June 2020.
On this date in history:
▪ One hundred and 70 years ago today, President Zachary Taylor died after just 16 months in office.
▪ 86 years ago, Donald Duck made his theatrical debut with Wise Little Hen.
▪ Seventy-five years ago today, 1.5 million people in Los Angeles watched a victory parade for George S. Paton and James Doolittle.
▪ Seventy years ago today, B. Jay Cooper was born in Waterbury, Conn.
▪ Fifty years ago today ...
Wait, what? Seventy years ago who was born?
Yes, today, June 9, is my 70th birthday. Birthdays with 0’s were never huge for me. If I turned one of the zeroes – 20, 30, 40, etc. – didn’t bother me much. For me it was the “5” years. Twenty-five seemed like you were accepting the label “adult” which separated you from the social activity of going to bars with your friends, or playing pool in the pool halls.
Was the same for 35, 45, different milestones but milestones just the same. Forty? No biggie. Sixty, again, no biggie.
But 70! Damn. As a former newspaper reporter, I’ve been a reader and was a writer of obits which are important to the family and not as easy to research and write as one might think. I also, of course, wanted to trace passing of folks who were friends, celebrities. At 70 you start noticing a lot of people are passing of natural causes who are younger than you. That’s unsettling.
It’s like each of the next years is not to be taken for granted any more than any of the preceding years, I guess. But then again now... now I’m 70!!
You also look back and see what trails you’ve left behind. I had an unexpected career. Always wanted to be a newspaper guy. That's all I wanted to be. Achieved that. Thanks to my college’s system of cooperative education, at 19 and for the next 12 or so years that’s what I did. Happy as a clam. Saw things I wouldn’t have seen without being a reporter and met people I never would have met.
Then came an opportunity to test the political waters as a staff guy on a campaign for governor of Connecticut. We lost, but it gave me a taste of another kind of challenge.
Long story short, it shortly started me into a career of politics as a staff guy for the next 15 or so years. Then, I did what all ex-political types do: I became a dreaded Washington consultant. That’s the bulk of my career in about five sentences.
More important, of course, was the personal side. A marriage that gave me three beautiful daughters who became beautiful mothers which made me … a grandfather! Times six.
Which brings me to a couple of weeks ago. My oldest grandson called to let us know that his longtime girlfriend is pregnant. I rolled into congratulating him and her, which led me to realize my oldest daughter was about to be a grandmother – at the ripe young age of 45 (ironically, the same age I first became a grandparent). Lord, I’m going to be the father of a grandmother, I thought. Getting old.
Then my wife (who I’d met in college, didn’t see for 30 years which led to dating and marriage) looks at me and says, “You’re going to be a great-grandfather!” Feeling older.
In 1969 I won a lottery, the only one I’ve ever won. It was the lottery for the draft. Few in my generation wanted to fight in Vietnam, a controversial war. I, like most of my generation, lost friends not only who were killed but who came home damaged physically and emotionally. I pulled number 335 in the draft. Yes, I still remember the number. Maybe not all that old.
The recent protests in the United States brought back memories of protests of my younger days. I was at a protest at Yale University in 1969 during the New Haven trial of Black Panther Bobby Seale who was alleged to have killed Wayne Kimbro, a New Haven Panther. The National Guard was called in to deal with the protestors and moved us from one Yale courtyard to the next, using tear gas to push us along. Just as the authorities did at the White House the other day.
Another was the first Earth Day demonstration in Washington, D.C., in 1970. I was in college in Boston and borrowed a college floor mate’s bedroll so I could sleep on the DC mall. A group of us drove to D.C., we rolled out our bedrolls on the Mall and went to look around the thousands of protestors. Came back and someone stole my floor mate’s bedroll. Peace, love and they stole my bedroll.
And, now, transition from those 1970 demonstrations to my 70th birthday as we witness the many protests over the murder of George Floyd, which seems to be pointing to a change coming in civil rights and policing. I may be older but some things never change. Maybe this time.
Of course, we need to remember that I’ve already lived 70 years and really today notes the beginning my 71st. Not sure that makes it better or worse.
So what does one do on one’s 70th birthday in the middle of a pandemic? I was going to have a little party with what’s left of the extended family. But, the pandemic interfered and I hope to do that in the not too distant future.
I’ll probably begin my day by reading the obits like every day, check to see if my name’s listed (sick joke, I know, but also cheap).
It will be a day like any other. A little golf in the morning, hoping the golf gods look down on me and grant me a fabulous round. Uh, I’ll let you know but based on how I’ve been playing, I think the gods will skip to someone who has demonstrated a bit more talent than I for the stupidest game ever invented, and also the game that always draws you back.
The rest of the day I’ll likely sit in the den, think about being 70 and ask myself, “How did THAT happen?”
Probably Trump’s fault.🔷