Reflections on Notes to Our Sons and Daughters

Susan Sermoneta /

I had no idea what we were going to other than it was a gala of some kind and we were expected to dress in kind. So I put on a nice outfit and admired myself in the mirror for a nice amount of time and then waited for a short time to be picked up by my beautiful sidekick. I didn’t need to know where we were going to know we would have a good time as that seems to be the only kind of time we know how to have. We like to joke, “Hey, we’re doing all right for old folks.”

I hop in the car (well, plop in the car, to be more exact for my age) and learn that our destination is the Port Pavillion on Broadway Pier, a venue at the very end of Broadway in which I had never set foot before this day.

Valet parkers take our keys and as we walk along a walkway we’re greeted by more “Hellos” than I could count. And we walk into a buzz of pleasant energy, with smooth music playing in the background. A young woman bowed an electric violin, as she walked in and out and through and around a mass of smiling human beings, adding to the beauty of the melodic sounds that filled the air in the room.

Then the photographs grab your attention before you fully take in your next breath, wonderful pictures – by Phillip Scholz Rittermann, a master cameraman if there ever was one – of old faces with nuanced expressions that could in no way disguise the wisdom and friendliness and dignity that each individual possessed, that each expressed in excerpts that accompanied their portraits, promptedby what they would like to pass on to our collective “children.”

I sure was in the right place considering my advanced years and my love of children, collective or otherwise.
This exhibit, “Notes to Our Sons and Daughters,” portrayed, through the images of a number of noteworthy San Diego senior citizens, how positive the aging experience can be in one’s journey in life.

It was a particular pleasure seeing honorees who I know and love and respect. One such person was Joaquin Anguera who invites me to speak at his classes on gerontology at SDSU. He says: “Remember, you are a citizen of the world, and everybody needs you. You’ll find happiness in the giving of yourself.” I agree that children would surely do well to pursue giving their love to their fellow human beings. It’s worked for me.

I saw Peter Rowe’s picture. He’s a man whose writing I’ve enjoyed for many years. He shares with viewers: “I do my best work and am happiest when I’m paying attention to the world outside of me.” Shouldn’t we all look closely at what’s around us?

My old buddy, Reverend George Walker Smith, the first black board of education member of San Diego City Schools, implored us to “Make good on each day you live.” Right on! I begin each morning pretty much with “I’m alive, I’m alive! Let’s do it!” Or other words to the same effect.

Bill Walton, the big redhead, one of my all time favorite basketball hoopsters, was in the group, giving forth with: “Truly, a picture’s worth a thousand words.” His picture said that he’s doing okay and it wasn’t too long ago that was far from the truth. He overcame a lot of pain in order to want to continue being with us. I find that inspiring. Listen to the man, children.

Constance M. Carroll, Chancellor of the San Diego Community College District, a woman whose intelligence sometimes blows my mind, had this to say: “Once I discovered the addiction of service, I realized there’s no more satisfying activity in the world than helping others who are truly of need.” What a creed.

What an evening. Well dressed people, having a grand old time. The champagne and wine suited my palate just fine. The hor d’oeuvres and entrees were divine, gourmet in style and preparation, the desserts deliciously addictive. Let’s do this again. Soon.
The concept of this project was conceived by Alexis Dixon – who obviously is a master planner and organizer – “as a way to stimulate a much needed conversation between our youth and our wise.”

Marian Ross of Happy Days fame, emceed the program of the evening and she was one of the models. Her words of wisdom were: ” I wake up in the morning and I think…’Ahh, I’ve got the greatest idea!’ Of course it’s not a GREAT idea, but it gets me going… I’ve got a plan! We have a lot of power within us to make the world we want, we’re not at the whim of the winds.” Amen and amen.

The gathering was in behalf of Senior Community Centers, an organization run by Paul downey and his staff that addresses the needs of low-income seniors, offering them comprehensive nutrition and wellness programs and meals and activities and assists them in maintaining their independence.

Local philanthropist, Darline Shiley, spoke on this sparkling San Diego night with fog horns blowing a short distance away, to how important it is for us to support what Senior Community Centers does for our old and wise citizens. She says to our youth:

“To thine own self be true.’ Never forget the road you have traveled. If you do, someone else will surely remind you.” She, who with her immense wealth, can afford to do absolutely nothing, chooses to give to San Diego in so many ways, making fun of herself along the way. “I’m not a trophy wife,” she said. But she’s wrong, children. First of all she is lovely. But her level of being “down to earth,” of not trying to impress, is a most precious beautiful thing to behold. She is true to her own self and truly someone to listen to.

Mr. Dixon points out in a booklet of the photographs: “As a culture, we are obsessed with youth – and that’s not a bad thing. Young Americans exude a vigor that is inspiring and infectious. But as globalization makes us more aware of the valuable contributions being made by other cultures, let’s not lose sight of the hard won wisdom acquired by seasoned Americans.” Please, let’s not.

In looking for a picture to go along with my words for this writing, I found one of an old woman with a little boy. The photographer said “This woman saw me taking pictures and walked over and asked the child’s father if she could be in the picture.” She seems to embody the spirit I found in the Pavillion on Broadway Pier that night. She wanted to play a part in a child’s life, if but for a moment. So I say to the children: sometimes it’s the little things that count.


Ernie McCray

I was raised in a loving and alive home, in a black neighborhood filled with colorful characters in Tucson, Arizona. Such an environment gave me a hint that life has to be grabbed by the tail as tight as a pimple on a mosquito's butt. With no BS and a whole lot of love. So, from those days to now I get up every morning set on making the world a better place. On my good foot*, and I hope my writing reflects that. *an old black expression

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  1. avatarDavid says

    Wow Ernie… Again you captured the moment and put it to writing us mortals can understand…

    Keep ’em coming… : )

  2. avatarEd Hieshetter, Sr says

    Well written Ernie! As for me at age 75 I don’t think I’ve reached Senior Citizen status yet. Got far too many projects and things to learn ahead of me before I get there. When I get to Senior Citizen status how about you and me having a glass of wine together to celebrate my arrival. In the meantime I have a book for you (a gift) so when are we going to have breakfast again so I can give it to you? Ed

    • avatarErnie McCray says

      All right, young fellow. I’m up for that. I’ll contact you to set up having breakfast together.

    • avatarErnie McCray says

      Thanks. There’s nothing more vital to the survival of our society than positive interaction between generations, between the old and the young. Without such intercourse we become identified with who, I think, we really are: a people who have no real regard for the past and have no love, therefore no hope, in particular, for the future. But, hey, this is just an old dude “just sayin’.”