Back in 1938 when I was 6 and while waiting to hear if Mary Louis Karenbrock was going to come to my birthday party, a young actor named Walter Huston was appearing on Broadway in Knickerbocker Holiday.

“September Song,” the song he sang in the play, became a classic.

Sometime near the end of the ’30s, when we were all waiting to see if America was going to war, my brother Bud was dating Carmen Diaz, and whenever “September Song” came on the radio, he would say that was their song.

Bud went to war, and Carmen waited for him to come home. When she would see one of us somewhere in the street, she’d ask if we’d heard from him. “He doesn’t write anymore,” she said. “I’ll be glad when he comes home.”

Bud, who was at Pearl Harbor and fought through many of the worst battles, was deeply affected by what he saw. He came home, but not to the old neighborhood. He settled in Seattle. Carmen waited a long time before moving away. We never saw her again.

If you’re of my tender age, you know the words.

“Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December.
But the days grow short when you reach September.
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn’t got time for the waiting game.”

Sure we do. It’s a game we play through our entire lives. It seems like we’re always waiting for something, for someone.

We wait for our birthdays, for Christmas to soften the winter, for the Fourth of July and the sparklers.

We wait to get out of high school, for the letter from colleges, for the day we graduate, and for that person we’ve dreamed about.

Patience is overrated; waiting is never pleasant. We stand in the rain, waiting for a cold cellphone to ring, in the dark room, waiting for the knock on the door, familiar footsteps down the hall.

But life doesn’t stop while we wait. It just goes on through all the Mays and all the Decembers of our lives, and we meet people — and we lose them.

And yes, the days do grow shorter when we reach September.

It can be sweet when you’re waiting to get the courage to ask that important question and for that person to say “yes,” and hoping it won’t be “no.”

And now here we are, in a dark September, side by side with the light of summer fading. We are masked and angry and frightened, yes, but somehow we go on.

We wait for a promised vaccine, like our grandparents did for the Spanish Flu vaccine. It never came. But Jonas Salk’s vaccine came and ended polio.

We’re in the autumn of the world now, waiting for winter and hoping there will be another summer.

And we wait.

Some of us really don’t have time for the waiting game, but we play it anyway. Irish playwright Samuel Beckett said it best: “You must go on … I can’t go on … I’ll go on.”

I guess we’ll have to hold one another close … and go on.

J.P. Devine is a Waterille writer. 

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