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Sixty-Something: A Man’s Home Is His Castle

T.J. Clemente

The author's castle. (Photo: TJ Clemente)

The seasons are about to yet turn again with Labor Day now behind us and the year 2020 entering its final few months. My reality check came this week when the nurse at my doctor's office said my next appointment would be in three months on December 3! Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis is still unfolding.

I took a pause this morning feeling some sort of strong appreciation for my home. American Patriot, James Otis, once said, "A man's home is his castle," and as I age, I seem to understand that more. Going home, being home, leaving home are all powerful phrases, because there is a certain intangible to the saying there just isn't any place like home.

In sixty-seven years of living, I have had 13 addresses I have called home - including three in the Hamptons. The range goes from a horse farm house in Groveton, Virginia to an overpriced luxury New Jersey condo on the Hudson River, to a historical apartment in Georgetown, D.C. Yes, I moved around. Yet, within the list are two Pelham Manor, N.Y. homes where I actually spent half of my life growing up and watching my own children grow up. There also is New York City Upper East Side post-divorce address that gave me my material for my first novel, Whistling Past the Hottie Graveyard.

Now I am living in our, I say our because it's with my wife Cindi, who I live with, modest but oh so cozy East Patchogue home. We have trees we have planted yielding apples, rose bushes now blossoming, and huge sunflowers that are reseeding themselves yearly. The Montauk Daisies are about to pop soon. This is the home that is my castle. It has artifacts from every home I have lived in. From the oil paintings that hung in my parents' home, to a very wonderful rocking chair from the home I raised my kids, and lots of other stuff from every other residence.

This last year this house has been our fortress in staying safe from the Coronavirus. My wife and I have spent more summer Saturday nights watching Hallmark Movies in our basement media center than all the other years combined. We missed going to the Bay Street Theater, along with the others in Mattituck, East Hampton, Southampton, and Quogue. Not seeing those towns enjoying their local live theater has been sad. Not seeing our theater friends has been tough, with one or two passing on.

Years back, my wife and I were sharing a cocktail with then East Hampton Town Police Chief Eddie Ecker Jr. and his wife at a Montauk establishment. I first met Eddie while doing a piece on his mom being the Grand Marshal for the Friends of Erin St. Patrick's Day Parade. He asked me what else do I do besides write. I said I only write and he then said, "Nobody makes enough money to live on the East End by only writing." Yet, there I was renting a room with my dog in Montauk right off the ocean. Some people called that place The Montauk Shore Condominiums, but quite frankly it's a well-located trailer park. In the summer the trailers became toaster ovens and, in the winter, ice boxes, but it never bothered me - as week after week I covered stories, met people, and watched Montauk change into what it is now.

It was while living there I met Cindi. When my landlord sold off the trailer, Cindi invited me and my beagle to live with her temporarily in her apartment up-island, in Patchogue, until I found a new place to live. Then a neighbor reported a dog was staying in the apartment and she was ordered to get rid of the dog. At this time, we were not married yet. Cindi fought the order to remove the dog and won, but also located and then purchased the home we have spent the last ten years in. This home has a lot of love in it. This home has become my final castle.

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