A milestone in life will be marked quietly

This sure is not the column I was expecting to write for an edition of this newspaper that will be published two days before a milestone birthday in my life.

I suppose the good news is that on March 27, I will be able to line up with the rest of my now fellow “seniors” and buy toilet paper before the “young people” (those 59-and-under “kids”) can scoop it all up. These days I take my enjoyment where I can get it.

As a rule, I have tried for many years to subscribe to Monty Python’s suggestion to “always look on the bright side of life.” Life has certainly had its ups and downs for me; everything from the lows of the losing my wife, Stephanie, to cancer in 1999, to the highs of watching our son, Nate, graduate from college in 2017.

But now our beautiful western Monmouth County region, which I have called home since 1971, is facing the type of crisis that has not been seen for decades.

While the Great Recession of 2008-09 challenged us financially, the current coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is a double dose of trouble that threatens our physical and financial well-being.

As of March 20, four members of one local family have already died from the coronavirus. The community cannot even grieve with them as houses of worship remain closed.

We are watching the owners of the local businesses we patronize struggle to remain open, if they are even permitted to remain open during this crisis.

Stephanie worked at several stores in the Freehold Raceway Mall in the early 1990s – Units, Banana Republic and Gymboree – and for a person who never missed a day of work, I know she would be shocked to learn the mall was forced to close by the outbreak of a disease. This action is almost unthinkable.

The thoughts of one’s own employment – 38 years covering local news at the same newspaper – creep into my head. Today, it is hard to know what the future holds.

We have leaders on the local, county, state and national levels. Clearly, not everyone agrees with the actions our elected officials have taken or may yet take in the face of this ongoing disaster.

One hopes the deep political divisions that have developed over the past decade can be put aside at this trying time in America’s history, but I have my doubts as to whether those divisions can or will be put on hold, or possibly even healed.

As I was writing this column, the first two lines of the song “Cover Me” by Bruce Springsteen popped into my head: “The times are tough now, just getting tougher; This old world is rough, it’s just getting rougher.”

Never have truer words been spoken.

March 27 is going to be a quiet birthday for me this year, but all I can do is face each day as the sun comes up. The only wishes I will have as I blow out the candles on my cake is for good health for my family and yours, and for a way out of this deep hole in which we find ourselves.

Mark Rosman is a managing editor with Newspaper Media Group. He may be reached at news@thenewstranscript.com