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Sixty-Something: What’s Next?

T.J. Clemente

The Old Whalers Church in Sag Harbor. (Photo: TJ Clemente)

My wife and I have our vaccinations and we still are wearing our masks to stay safe. Now we sit and wait to see what's next. A certainty is things just won't be the same, but on the flipside, that doesn't mean things won't be better.

Last weekend on a beautiful ideal spring Sunday, I decided to take a long walk around Sag Harbor. I started on the Wharf, walked up to Havens Beach, and then along the beautiful shoreline, and eventually worked my way back into the historic district. Walking without any plan, I somehow ended up in front of the Old Whalers Church, that relic of Egyptian Revival architecture built in 1844. This church once, with its then 185 feet high steeple, was the tallest building on Long Island. The steeple, lost during "the Hurricane of 1938," leaves the church boxlike with no real reminder of what once was.

Amazingly as it may seem, my wife and I went out to dine in a restaurant for the first time in 2021. I enjoyed eating choices I had never had before. For the last year, we have been eating a basic, limited menu at home of food we both like and could prepare easily. The idea of having multiple new choices was a reminder of something we took for granted before eating out had safety factors.

This week I received my 2021 Non-Resident East Hampton Town Beach sticker (now costing $500) in the mail. Last year, I did not have one because they were suspended to prevent unsafe beach crowding. I am looking forward to swimming in the ocean with my wife this coming summer - as last year we only swam off my boat in Gardiners Bay. We are hoping that the real safety dangers will be less than they were last year.

That brings us to ask the question what our options will be as sixty-something-year-old folks to enjoy the years we have left, starting with the rest of 2021. Will there be live theater? Will there be live music to dance to? Will the festivals such as film festivals be attended and no longer have to be virtual? These are questions that sooner than later will be answered.

Some people say they miss their freedoms. Getting many of them back will make us all appreciate them more. I welcome advice on safe choices moving forward, but I am hoping there are less restrictions.

In this late stage of my life, I welcome the opportunities I have to interview people and write up stories about how folks who can help what might be happening or have possible choices for recreation. This last year, I listened to event organizers explain how they were going to do their events virtually and hope for success. I must admit there was some pain in their voices realizing the limits of doing things virtually. Just like many who believe attending class is the best way to do schooling, in the end everyone knows having people at festivals makes them most successful.

I have not been to any large fundraisers, galas, plays or festivals where I could mingle and meet new people - or just catch up with friends since the first week of March 2020 when things shut down. In the next phase of "what's next," I am hoping that that will change. I was fortunate that I was able to do as much sailing in Gardiners Bay last year as I have for the last 17 years. That helped me cope with my COVID experience of 2020. Not dancing with my wife to live music and celebrating life with other people and good friends, along with the daily fear of catching the virus were the most unpleasant experiences of 2020.

Moving forward, I will still err on the side of safety, however I will also be bold to help create a new safe normal. In my lifetime as a sixty-something person, I have watched the world change a few times. First, it had to be after the JFK assassination in 1963. Second, it had to be when young Etan Patz, age 6, was abducted on his way to school in Greenwich Village in New York City on May 25, 1979, because that event changed the way children live forever. For me, the next event that changed the world was September 11, 2001. I was in Manhattan at work that day. After that tragic day, we all lost a lot of freedoms, especially in traveling. We lost a lot of freedoms from the new procedures that were put in place in the name of safety that complicated our lives. However, none of these events have the ramifications of our COVID experience of 2020, with over 500,000 deaths in just one year.

No one will know when this pandemic will be over until it's over. What we do know is the last year changed all our lives, forever leaving us asking: what's next?

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