The Finale from Ralph Oko’s Memoir, “Beschert”

We think the last chapter of our client Ralph Oko’s memoir is particularly powerful and, with his permission, we are sharing it here:

Although the stories I’ve shared in this memoir take place in a number of decades, I am really a child of the 1960s. At the start of that pivotal and tumultuous decade, I was 15—an eager, adventurous, and largely untested high school sophomore. At its end, I was 25, married, and embarking on fatherhood. The pattern of my adult life was beginning to take shape.

For me, and I suspect for many of you, the 10-year span from mid-teens to mid-twenties is as transformational as it gets. The music of the 60s parallels my personal growth during that decade. It’s hard to believe that only 6 years separate Connie Francis’ “Where the Boys Are” and The Doors’ “Light My Fire.”

Songs from our youth have the ability to transport us back to the time that we first hummed their tunes, or sang along to their lyrics; it’s truly magical and as close to time travel as we will likely ever get. But it’s also instructive to think about those songs from the distance of decades—to reflect on those that now leave us cold, and those that still move us.

For me, a number of songs still resonate, partly because I think of them in light of my later experiences, but mostly because something about them triggers a memory of a special friend or family member. I think in particular of my beloved parents, Ludwig and Hilde, and my best friend, Lester.

Some songs that seem as fresh and evocative to me now as they did when I first heard them: The Beatles’ “Love Me Do” and “Let it Be,” The Four Tops’ “Reach Out (I’ll be There),” Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” and Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.”

I’d like to end by sharing the lyrics of “What a Wonderful World,” a song written by a pair of Georges—Douglas and Weiss—and sung so memorably by Louis Armstrong. It was out-of-step with some of the other big hits of 1967—Janis Ian’s “Society’s Child” and Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” come to mind—which, in retrospect, makes it timeless.

I see trees of green, red roses too

I see them bloom for me and you

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white

The bright blessed day and the dark sacred night

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow

So pretty in the sky

Are also on the faces

Of people goin' by

I see friends shakin' hands

Sayin', "How do you do?"

They're really sayin'

"I love you"

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow

they’ll learn much more than I'll ever know

and I think to myself

What a wonderful world


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