The Dangers Involved in Growing Up

All of a sudden I feel like a grown up. I guess it comes with the territory when truly momentous events happen in your life. My family and I have had a fabulous couple of weeks. Personally I got to enjoy the rare joy which a father experiences from the simple act of walking his first-born daughter down the aisle at her wedding. Trust me when I tell you that it has been a real whirlwind of activity. The last weekend of May was a blur of hustle and bustle. And so it will remain in my mind's eye for a long time now.

I guess that watching one's children leave the nest has been a bugaboo for parents throughout the ages. You can watch it happen to others, but boy is it ever special when it is your turn at bat. So now it is with the Carter clan. My son the priest is in residence at Our Lady of Sorrows near Trenton, our married daughter Ellen is on her honeymoon with her beloved Patrick in Hawaii, and our middle child, Katie, the firefighting daughter, is buying a condo.

Darn, I am really starting to feel like I' all grown up now. I guess I am all grown up or why else would I be carrying a Medicare card in my wallet. I guess the secret to my personal good feeling lies within the fact that I try not to think of myself as a grown up. I am just a kid masquerading as an adult.

Growing up was the topic of the sermon in church the other day. Our Associate Pastor Chris Van DeBunte spoke of the problems which you can face in growing up. It was the proper sermon for the service as it was confirmation Sunday. We received our latest group of young folks who stepped up to take their active place among the members of our congregation.

The church was packed with family and friends of the folks being confirmed. It was a special day for me too, for you see I was once again privileged to serve as a mentor to a member of that class. For the second year in a row I was privileged to share my faith with a young member of our church.

One of the critical elements of the pastor's message involved the importance of learning to wait for life's joys and sorrows. Things do not always happen when you want them to happen. It seems that one of the great problems in society today arises from the fact that folks are enamored of the need for immediate satisfaction and instantaneous gratification. People want things right now and become extremely unhappy when their desires are not immediately fulfilled.

Yes my friends, this is one of life's true lessons. There is only one place where you can always expect to have it your way. That restaurant claims to have built their success upon meeting the immediate needs of their customers. However, it is one thing to get a burger the way you want it. It is another thing altogether to have your life's needs met with any degree of consistency or immediacy.

Patience has long been held up as a true virtue, one which we should seek to develop and embrace. Unfortunately, patience does not just happen. I can recall a number of years ago asking for patience during one of my prayers. Friends, I will not make that mistake again. Rather then being granted an instantaneous burst of patience, I was given a wide array of situations which required me to slow down and work my way through each of them. Hence, I guess you could say that patience came, but not according to my schedule.

That is how life works. When you are younger, you expect everything to happen when you want it. The longer I have lived, the more convinced I have become that things happen when they happen. Many of the longest periods of time I have ever lived through came immediately ahead of something that I dearly wish to have happen.

It is with a certain fondness that I can recall counting the days until I was allowed to leave Vietnam and return home. I can also recall counting the days until I left the service for good. The problem with counting the days is that they seem to move more slowly when you do that. But here we are now in the year 2012 and I have been out of the Air Force for just about 42 years. Wow, where did time go?

Then again there was the run up until I got hired by the fire department in Rahway and then again Newark. Then there was the interminable waiting for the day to arrive when I received my promotions to Captain and to Battalion Chief. I could literally hear the clock giving off it slow and monotonous series of ticks and tocks. When you consider that I was promoted to Battalion Chief on the very last day on a three-year promotional list, you can better see what I mean.

But then again, there are other times when the moments really seem to fly by. I can recall when the day came and I could retire from Newark. I paused to draw a breath of fresh air and ponder the possibilities of my future. Then it seems like there was a large poof and now I am suddenly thirteen years older. I cannot believe that I have been out of Newark for more than 13 years. Time is an integral part of life and it seems to move in uneven fits and spurts.

How do you explain things like this to a younger person? I guess it is like the time when one of my veteran buddies in Newark suggested that I enjoy each day on the job, because, as he stated, time will fly by and you will never really know where it went. Suddenly you will be retired and wondering where your life went. Son of a gun if he wasn't right on target with that one.

So it is the passage of time which is hard to define for the young folks. I have taken great pains to pass on the information which my older buddy shared with me so many years ago. I urge the younger folks with whom I share my thoughts and ideas to take each day as the gift it is and enjoy it to its fullest. There are only going to be so many of them and you must not waste them.

Let me now share a critical element which can be lost by each of us as we grow from an eager young novice into a grey-haired, longtime veteran. It is hard to remember just how much of our time was spent as a younger person dreaming of those things we would like to accomplish. I can recall wanting to get out of high school and head off to college. I can recall wanting to get out of the Air Force and get on with my life. In each of those cases I had dreams and my actions were targeted in pointing me to achieve my dreams.

Sadly, the ability to dream is something which is far too frequently worn away from our spirit as we grow older. Life's disappointments take a toll on us and we are worn down by life's reality. There are people of my acquaintance who seem to be just going through the paces in the living of their lives. Some of them seem to be patiently waiting for the final knock of death and their life's door. That is really sad. Let me suggest that does not have to be this way.

I am not a young man. Heck, I even have a Medicare card in my wallet. But I still have dreams. I still have plans and my writing for you is one of the major parts of my life's plan of attack for the decade of my sixties. Let me suggest that you need to review my article on optimism and review the list you created for yourself that contains those things where you can have an impact. Your dreams can cure the problems you face which fall within your ability to attack them.

I still have dreams my friends. I want my wife and me to live long enough to see our son appointed a Monsignor in the church. I want to live to see my firefighting daughter meet the man of her dreams and get married. I want to live long enough to take my grandchildren to the Jersey shore and walk on the boards at Ocean Grove en route to yet another concert where they can see their grand dad play his tuba.

Further more I want to keep responding to fire calls with the Adelphia Fire Company as long as I have the physical ability and mental acuity to perform my duties safely and correctly. Finally I want to spend many, many more evenings out on my front porch smoking cigars and dreaming of things to share with you.

Let me suggest that you shake off the cobwebs of adulthood and embrace the child-like nature of a true dreamer. As long as you have the ability to think, you will have the ability to dream. Maybe there will be a better way to raise money for your fire department. Perhaps there will be a way to train people so that they never again die from falling through a building with a trussed roof.

Your ability to dream is limited only by your willingness to think. Let me assure you of one important fact. There will always be one more thought to think and one more theory to share. There will always be one more dream of what you and your fire department family can do it you just try. My friends, that is my dream for the future.