One baby boomer reflects through his rear window

A number of boomers are reflecting on their lives and taking stock. we’re sure seeing a lot of them here at BoomerCafé. We particularly like this one from retired writer and editor Alan Paul of Hawthorne, New Jersey, who has been thinking about life’s twists and turns, and his perspective was shaped one recent evening by what he calls his Rear Window. Whether you have a window like his, you probably have the same experiences upon which to reflect.

My wife Jan and I were lying in bed the other night when she drew my attention towards the small, half-round window which is near the peak of our roof in the main upstairs bedroom. On the south side of the house, this perfect semi-circle peers out upon a well-defined patch of treetop and sky, with an occasional airplane floating across the scene, creasing the fabric of the heavens on its way to who-knows-where.


What I saw that night though, when Jan prompted me to look, were pitch-black tree branches, with a modicum of leaves which thus far had outlasted the Fall, still clinging like a last-gasp. The branches appeared in bas-relief against the moderately softer, charcoal gray night sky.

“I’ve watched the seasons unfold from here,” she said profoundly. “And each one is more beautiful than the last.”

Jan and Alan Paul on their wedding day.

Jan and Alan Paul on their wedding day.

“That’s a pretty amazing window,” I replied.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“I mean, to be able to do all that for you, and for you to appreciate it the way you did… that’s a job well done for a lowly pane of glass, don’t you think?”

“Yes,” she said, after a moment of reflection. “It really is.”

That brief conversation got me thinking about this thing called “Life” and its intricacies, ironies ,and subtleties. They conjoin and conspire to craft the all-too-brief measure of time between birth and death. Consider the seemingly irrelevant and innocuous choices we make, often without giving them a second thought, which can irrevocably alter the course of life’s meandering stream.

Paul_Rear-windowA case in point: I met Jan at a party I attended during a long Thanksgiving weekend nearly forty years ago. I was living in a small apartment in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, with no car and very little desire on that particular Saturday evening to do anything other than curl up with a bad book or watch an equally mediocre movie on TV.

But there was a knock at my door. It was my neighbor across the hall, asking if I might be interested that night in attending a party with him. I declined at first, but he insisted, and against my better judgment, I eventually, although reluctantly, agreed. Meantime, unbeknownst to me, my wife-to-be, at virtually that very same moment, was being prodded and cajoled by a friend of hers into attending this same party, very much against her will.

So, we both came to the party — one which I had no earthly right being anywhere near, and one which she had virtually zero interest in attending. Had I been steadfast in my refusal, or had she, both our lives would have traversed vastly different trajectories, arriving, like that occasional airplane creasing the patch of sky we see through our half-round, rear window, who-knows-where.

Is it not astonishing, at the very least, to contemplate where one’s life might have matriculated, had one chosen that alternate path on the journey, instead of that which was travelled? This is a constant source of amazement to me.


  1. Thank you for sharing Alan. You are so right, it is indeed amazing when one contemplates who and and what we are and could have been, depending on the choices one makes along that road called life.

  2. Yogi is said to have said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Our lives, like a computer game has many choices. Looks like you made a good one.

  3. “The first forty years of life give us the text; the next thirty supply the commentary on it.” – Arthur Schopenhauer
    To paraphrase another quote I have always enjoyed from him: Going forward through life, some choices are difficult to make, but looking back over it all, most choices make perfect sense!

  4. I’m reminded of poet Kahlil Gibran: “Marriage is the golden ring in a chain whose beginning is a glance and whose ending is eternity.”

    It’s really that simple, and that profound at the same time!

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