Bonus Time

Mortality has been an issue for me ever since I became aware that I was uniquely alive. I was four. Seemingly the next day, I had the same awareness, but I now was seven. Yikes! Where had those three years gone? Eaten up in one second of thought. I said to myself “Wow, if I don’t learn to pay attention, my life could be over in my next flash of awareness.” It created a major panic attack. I was going to become much more aware of time. I think it was shortly after that I adopted a life philosophy that turned out to be rather Existential. I would live life so that I would avoid the sudden awareness, on my death bed, that I had not really ever lived at all.
I was now going to live life to the max. I think that was the core of why I never said “no” all through my young adult years. Do you want to? Yes!
It took the form of adventure and experience. Led me to hitchhike across America by myself with my life savings of $75 in my pocket. Then I did it again because I hadn’t seen all the states. Then was Europe and Morocco. So much to see.
I am writing this today because I have made it to Bonus Time. When I was born the life expectancy for me was 76.5 years. I have reached that and it has caused a pause, a time look back at my years and what I have or have not done. I can honestly say I will not have that death bed experience. I have succeeded. I have lived a very unique and complex life with many different phases and it brings a great sense of happiness and laughter to me.
Have I done everything I ever dreamed of doing? Sadly no. I never caught for the Yankees but I did get drafted by the Mets and the Braves. I never starred in a Hollywood movie, but I did act off Broadway with the Wooster St Players. Did I own my own restaurant? No, but I did bartend at the White Horse Tavern in the Village and knew personally all the Village bar owners and managers. I traveled with them in Portugal and Spain and Monte Carlo and stayed at their villas during the jet set days in the 70’s. I was in the flow of all the action, the women and the scene, up front and personal, as Howard Cosell would say.
Was I a real estate magnate? No but I ran summer houses in the Hamptons with my buddies in the raucous and wild summers of the 70’s. Did I become a famous humanitarian? No but I have been a committed civil rights and environmental activist since my anti Vietnam days in the 60’s and 70’s. The Peace Movement and being a Hippie was something I really loved. I led the West Village recycling program on W. 11th st and built a people’s garden park in front of St. Vincent’s hospital which still stands today.
Did I become the next Freud? Certainly not, but I had a terrific 50 year
career as originally a street social worker in the Lower East Side, who eventually became the Director in a Psychiatric Hospital’s Emergency Room. Ultimately a family therapist and the President Elect of the New Jersey Family Therapy Association. I loved teaching grad students at Columbia and Yeshiva Universities. I feel terrific about the fact that I helped thousands of people in my career, and changed the direction of so many lives for the positive.
I have been fortunate to keep friends from as early as grammar school, for they are the fabric of one’s life, the center pole that validates who you are and what you are.
I have been fortunate to raise two smart, caring intelligent and successful children. It is the culmination of many years of sacrifice and dedication to one focused goal of making them independent and self sufficient. If one does it with parental love, it doesn’t feel like sacrifice.
The one hurdle that almost broke me was the death of my father. I had just turned 16. My mother was unskilled and we had very little money. I was alone after she told me she could no longer guide me as she was not a man and she knew that was what I needed. It never happened, as I had to take the reins of my own life. Initially it was failure and alcohol. With a bleeding ulcer at age 22 I quit liquor. Many years of struggle before the Army saved me and turned my life around. Due to them I got a free ride at Columbia U and got therapy and never looked back at failure.
It has been a whirlwind of life experience and joy. I have found love and a paired life of fun, travel and a ton of laughs with the fabulous Jill Elliot.
So now it is Bonus Time, there are no more tomorrows, it is only today. Life is today. Thankfully my head still has its marbles working and the body lets me ride bikes in the city and walk miles if I want to.
As M.L. King Jr. said “ I have been to the mountain top, and have seen the promised land, I may not get there with you, but I am not afraid.” Mine eyes have seen the glory and my soul is at peace.

6 Comments
  1. Reply Dotti Tyndell August 26, 2018 at 7:34 am

    Beautiful Kenny…just beautiful

  2. Reply Judy Cohen August 26, 2018 at 9:09 am

    Well said Ken. Let’s all use this “Bonus Time” to the fullest!!

  3. Reply Doug August 26, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Down here in Oaxaca, where we miss you, everyone’s past is shrouded in at least a modicum of mystery and life stories can be very creative. The telltale sign is the first mention of the CIA. Thanks for this generous and factual glimpse into your story. It’s good to be known and a gift to your friends to know you.

  4. Reply Maggie Cobbett (Collie) August 26, 2018 at 9:06 pm

    The very little time we spent together in the 1960s left an indelible impression on me, Ken, and I was very happy to reconnect – albeit only through the internet – many decades later. You’re the epitome of living life to the full.

    • Reply Ken Ludmer August 26, 2018 at 9:16 pm

      Thanks Maggie. Appreciate your thoughts. We made a fine connection.

  5. Reply Kenn August 26, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    Beautiful piece. I share the bonus time with you

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