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Life in the Back Nine

By BARBARA LANGAN | Aug 30, 2017

Like a child clinging to his mother’s side, I find myself on this mid-August morning gripping ever-so-tightly to summer’s waning days.

Along with all the precious perks that only a season like summer can render (a plethora of outdoor activities comes quickly to mind), for me, the one word that summer is synonymous with is nostalgia. The dictionary defines nostalgia as a “bittersweet longing for things, persons or situations of the past.” Why does this time of year seem to cast that net of nostalgia over me like no other? Probably it’s because, more than any other season, summer has given me so many indelible memories of people, places and things – sadly, some of which no longer exist.

I think of all those people who, over the years, were a special part of my life (especially, but not exclusively, family members), and who have since passed on. Each one afforded me some wonderful memories by just being in his or her presence. For some reason, I always seem to miss them just a little bit more in the summer. Not unlike an August sun, remembrances burn so much brighter during these sun-kissed months. How I wish I had one more hour to spend with him or her, for that last chance to touch their faces, or confess how much joy they brought into my life. Still, the memories they’ve bequeathed to me help to ease the pain of their absence.

Visits to the Jersey Shore every summer, from Asbury Park to Long Beach Island, unfailingly resurrect those carefree days of my youth. Again, some of those special places along the shore have now become extinct. Whether it be a favorite restaurant, doughnut shop or even a popular night spot from my cavalier days of the ’70s, time has forever erased many of them from the landscape of the shore, but not of the mind.

If life was designed like the game of golf, I would be considered somewhere on my “back nine” now, slowly but surely heading toward that dreaded “18th hole.” Some days, meandering through the fairways of life can be a struggle. Those unexpected “hazards” or “bunkers” appear out of nowhere; yet on other days, not so much. My gait is much lighter.

But before I reach the final hole, I still must strive for that euphoric feeling you experience when making that “hole in one” – whether that means finally finding a job I have true passion for, or maybe writing that elusive novel I cannot seem to get started on, or perhaps finally dancing a ballet (yes, ballet!) without any inhibitions whatsoever. Still, maybe it’s just simply striving to live more in the present, while forever treasuring and being grateful for the people and places that have enriched my life thus far. Without fail, every single summer evokes these feelings in me, in almost a magical way.

When you finally arrive on that back nine, you cannot help but ponder from time to time the finality and fragility of life. And so, as these waning days of summer grow closer, no wonder my grip on them becomes all that much tighter.

Meanwhile, back on those fairways, keep an eye out for the sand traps.

Barbara Langan lives in Tabernacle, N.J.

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