A year or so before the pandemic, which would be about two years before today, I took singing lessons in the “piano room” at our house. We called it the piano room because it’s where we put my grandmother’s piano. This was a behemoth of a piano — a beautiful black seven-foot long Baldwin parlor grand — and it weighed a metric ton. It hardly fit, so a few years later, we swapped it for a Yamaha Clavinova. Now my piano has a volume control and stands against the wall.
One of the songs I decided to learn to sing is this one, “It’s Been A Long, Long Time,” by Bing Crosby and Les Paul. I first heard it on Spotify, and it touched me. The guitar is beautiful, the lyrics are haunting, and the purity of just Bing’s voice and Les’s guitar is magical. I’ve been on a WW1 and WW2 movie-watching kick for a while and I figured that this song was about the war. A quick google search confirmed my hunch. (Another one that would be obvious, if you listened closely, is “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”)
So I learned the chords and the lovely guitar solo and took it to my piano and vocal teacher and asked her to work with me on it. We spent a few weeks improving my tone and breathing through the high notes and then moved on to other songs, but this one still has a special place in my heart. And that sentiment has only deepened over the last two momentous years.
As I write this, my dog is five and a half years old. He’s middle-aged, just like me, and he’s sore after our long jogs. My oldest daughter is six, and she’s lanky and has a big gap-toothed smile. I still remember her smiling to herself, asleep in a crib in San Francisco, her arm stretched out in that baby sleeping pose. I knew then that she’d be a happy kid, and she is.
My youngest is now four years old. She’s sassy, strong, and increasingly independent. Before the pandemic, we followed her around everywhere, protecting her fall. She was barely three years old then. Within weeks of the lockdowns we let her out of sight, playing with our neighbors at the end of our cul-de-sac. Now she’s even more mobile, on a bike, a scooter, a skateboard, or rollerblades. I couldn’t keep up if I tried, so I don’t.
Indeed, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve changed a diaper. I’m grateful for that, and also sad.
I sold our BOB jogging stroller last weekend. I can’t count how many miles I pushed that thing. It would be in the hundreds. We went all over the northern flats and hills of San Francisco, along Crissy Field and up into the Presidio. My runs got longer when we moved to the suburbs. I jogged that stroller to preschool, daycare, and elementary school. Countless trips to Noah’s Bagels with plain reduced fat smears stuffed into the pockets on our way home.
I’m now a dad without a stroller. It took six years, but it happened fast.
When my neighborhood dad friends get together and drink beers by a fire in one of our backyards, I’m reminded that I’m the old guy now. Most of my neighbors are still having kids, planning on having more. They’re in their early to mid-30s. I’m at the end of that decade. I moved into this neighborhood before them. Now I’m the one who knows the history, who lived in what house and has since moved away. That’s crazy to me. When I first moved here there were other guys who knew the lore. Now I’m one of them. The old guard.
I’ve been running MightySignal longer than I was at the Harvard Kennedy School. I’ve been living in Saranap longer than I was at UC Berkeley. All of these experiences are stacking on top of each other like loaded bricks and sometimes they weigh down on me. What does it all mean? What’s it supposed to mean? Does it mean anything? I don’t know.
Recently I’ve been going through a transition. I have too much on the line right now to say exactly what it’s about, but it has involved months of debate with myself and friends who will listen. There’s a longer post to be written about this, and I will get to it (I look forward to multiple sittings on this one), but it all boils down to this same refrain: “It’s Been A Long, Long Time.”
I’ve been alive for a long, long time. I’ve been an adult for a long, long time. I’ve been out of grad school for a long, long time. My kids are older, I’m older, and in many ways, I’m able to do whatever I want.
So now what?