Clay Shares Some Thoughts on Turning 40
If someone told you that you could take an afternoon nap at grandma's house on a summer day and wake up years later to an amazing life, with an amazing spouse, a beautiful child, great career and be surrounded by the best friends you could ever ask for, would you take the offer?
Picture it, a cool breeze coming through the window..the comfort of grandma's house knowing that your mother, father, sisters and brothers were all just a room away. No worries. Not a concern about anything. Just the simplicity of a child's afternoon nap and then waking up to an amazing life at 40 years old.
My sister Elizabeth and I turn 40 years old today. Although it has taken that many years to get to this point, it wasn't until recently that I began reflecting on what that means and what these past 40 years had to offer.
My wife Elizabeth (yes I have a wife Elizabeth, sister and co-worker named Elizabeth/Liz) asked me if how I felt about the big day today. Here's how I look at it.
I can still remember that moment at my grandmother's house in Saranac Lake, NY that I described earlier. Those summer road trips all seem to stand out in one way or another. I wouldn't trade the goofy moments on the long car ride from East Aurora (my dad always took the long way). My sisters would trade being car sick, my mother refused to keep the windows down (she had just had her hair done). Most of the cars we had didn't have an air-conditioner that worked. The 6 of us; my two brothers, dad and my 2 sisters and I would have to suffer the summer heat! . On our trips, we hiked a bit, we fished a bit and did plenty of sight-seeing. But the best part was being together. All 7 of us on a trip to grandmas.
I was six when my oldest brother left for the Marine Corps. The night mom and dad drove him to the airport to get to Paris Island, I cried so much. It's a moment that stands out in my mind so vividly. To this day it is one of the saddest and proudest moments of the last 40 years.
Having a twin sister all throughout school was a great experience. Like most siblings, we had our share of "spats." But Lizzy (that's what we call her ) is my elder by 5 minutes and all the things that a "big sister" is expected to be and do, she did and was. From fending off elementary school bullies, to helping with homework and being together as we hit the big years 16, 18, 21 and now 40, Lizzy has always been right by my side, even if she does live a couple hours away.
My brother Chris has become a big success in his career in the medical field and my oldest sister Kelly is an incredible wife and mom who has recently started her own business! We all still get together but as you know, the older you get and the more a family grows, the harder it is to coordinate everyone's schedules.
To tell each story about the last 40 years of my life would take a long time. Just the history of world events including The Oklahoma City Bombing, OJ Simpson's White Bronco and trial, the attacks on 9-11, President Regan being shot, the earthquake in San Fransisco and the Buffalo Bills 4 super bowl games and the Sabres "No Goal" are just the few that I recall.
I have some incredible memories of growing up in East Aurora, attending Canisius College and my life in radio. My wife and I were joking that I actually got to live my 20's...twice! Looking back, it's amazing that I can even recall some of it.
Having an incredible job and working with the best radio people in Buffalo at WYRK for 21 years has allowed me to do some amazing things and meet some incredible people. Looking back, the job I've had and being on the radio has always been how I defined myself. It's how people knew me. During my 20's and 30's I spent a lot of time inside of bars, at concerts and at parties and had a blast through it all. I got married and divorced, moved around Western New York ten times or so and lived what some would call a pretty reckless and careless life for nearly 20 years.
My mother and father passing away were two of the toughest moments in the last 40 years. I was 19 when mom died and was a total mamma's boy. I still think about that beautiful woman everyday. When dad died, I lost a friend and mentor who had my back when I needed it but was quick to point out when I was making a mistake. My dad was the greatest teacher I have ever had. His key to being a success in anything was to "budget and plan." That's some amazing advice!
These days, I find myself thinking more like dad. I am trying to be more understanding of other people and the way the world works. I find myself reflecting on more things. I don't run or bike as often as I used to or go to the gym as much as I probably should. But personal appearance and being competitive in those areas doesn't seem as important anymore. I can't recall the last time I went to happy hour with the boys and I find myself getting to bed earlier and focusing on a budget and having somewhat of a plan.
Meeting my wife Elizabeth and her family in 2014 was a major turning point for me. We got married in 2015 and had our son Hank in 2016. I never really even thought about having kids and by the time I had met her, I had just about given up on the idea of having children. As a father of 5 kids, my dad would be first to point out what a mistake that would have been.
Our son Hank coming in to the world is the single greatest memory of the last 40 years. Being a dad is the hardest, most tiring thing I have ever tried to do. That includes riding 100 miles for the Ride for Roswell! But being a dad is also the most rewarding thing that I have done. Hank has his mother's beautiful smile (and thankfully, her brains) that can make even the worst day better. I can't imagine a day without hearing his laugh or getting one of those famous smooches he gives! I find myself just staring at him most days in disbelief that I had the ability to create such an amazing child.
40 years has flown by. Looking back, I can recall when I did fall asleep at grandmas at night, the morning seemed to come so quickly! Being a kid was so easy and being an adult is so difficult at times. But what defines me and who I am these days has become easier because of how I have started to look at things. When I stopped competing to gain happiness from material things and stopped being afraid of missing out on things, life actually got better. That's a lesson that has been expensive and taken 40 years to learn.
The answer I would have to give when asked "how are you feeling about turning 40?" is that I would like to celebrate the experiences and events and people in my life for the last 4 decades.
I do wish mom and dad were here today to witness their twin babies turn 40. But I feel great about the next chapter in my life. And, God willing, seeing our babies grow to be successful adults and learn to be more understanding of others and how the world works.
I guess I would have to pass on the offer to fall asleep as a kid and wake up where I am today. Even with the hardest times I have gone through (barely escaping bankruptcy at one point), it sure has been an incredible journey and is actually getting better everyday! I just have more gray hair these days.