In search of self, author finds a generation instead

DEL MAR — When Rick Bava discusses “In Search of the Baby Boomer Generation” later this month at the Del Mar Library it will be somewhat of a homecoming because that’s where he wrote the first draft of his book.

“At that point I was kind of academic,” he said. “I studied at the library. Now I was going to write at the library. I thought there was something about the atmosphere that would bring out the best in me and it did.

“I had become pretty friendly with (former head librarian) Gretchen (Schmidt) and the staff,” Bava added. “In an odd sort of way it was like getting up and going to the office. There were days when I was there morning, noon and night. Gretchen was at the foundation of making me feel welcome.”

Author Rick Bava will discuss his new book, “In Search of the Baby Boomer Generation,” at the Del Mar Library. Courtesy photo

Author Rick Bava will discuss his new book, “In Search of the Baby Boomer Generation,” at the Del Mar Library. Courtesy photo

Becoming an author was not on Bava’s bucket list. A series of personal losses that began in the late 1990s prompted him to leave a successful 30-year business career.

“You might say that I had the blues,” he said. “I’m not ashamed to admit that. I’d lost my fire in the belly for corporate life. I started talking to my best friend about really wanting to make a contribution to society. One could say that I went out searching for myself and found a generation.”

Bava was born in Chicago in 1955, “right at the heart of the Baby Boomer generation,” he said. He attended the University of Wisconsin on a tennis scholarship and earned a degree in communications with an emphasis in business.

He then took graduate courses in Boston through the Harvard extension program and was hired as a high-level manager for Commodore International, which developed one of the world’s best-selling computers of the time.

He was later recruited to run the external business for the computer services division of the Boeing Company, which landed him in Seattle, Wash. Eventually he started his own business, The Bava Group, a communications consulting firm for Fortune 500 companies.

All the while he kept in close contact with his parents, who at times accompanied him to business conferences, and two brothers.

“I come from a really wonderful family,” he said. “I loved my parents. They were supportive before there was such a term. Then my parents became very ill. It was very difficult to watch them age.”

His mother, Mary, suffered a series of strokes that resulted from a botched knee replacement.

His father, Frank, cared for her with help from their sons.

Bava traveled back and forth between Washington and Chicago to help his older brother Robert, whom he describes as “a true saint.”

Mary Bava passed away in 1999; her husband in 2004. They had been married for 62 years. “They had been a team, really,” Bava said.

Less than three years later, at age 65, Robert passed away.

“It took a lot out of me caring for my elderly parents, and their passing,” he said. “They were such a part of my life.

“If you really look at it from an analytical standpoint, my support system was gone,” Bava added. “I’d spent my whole life achieving, partly because I wanted to make my parents proud, my family proud.”

At that point Bava began a task many Baby Boomers face today — settling his parents estate. As he went through that exercise he started to notice an increase in businesses and services for seniors such as retirement magazines and 55-and-older communities.

Bava realized he wasn’t alone. There was an entire generation dealing with the same issues he was experiencing.

“I can’t tell you what it’s doing to Baby Boomers to see their parents age, the rocks of their family becoming frail and having the reversal of roles, where the children become the parents and the parents become the children,” he said. “I think I’m emblematic of a lot of Baby Boomers across America.”

So in 2009, with encouragement from his best friend he’d known since college, Bava left the corporate world and began a two-year journey.

“There are a lot of Baby Boomers who are in the encore career stage, where they want to do something they always wanted to do,” Bava said. “A lot of them want to give back. And I wanted to do that.

“I just felt that whatever I did, I still wanted to succeed,” he added. “There’s no question about that. It’s kind of in my DNA. But I wanted to do it in a way that I thought I could really make a contribution.”

His first trip took him to Calabria, Italy, to see the town where his father was born. He then traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, to visit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital because Robert had been active with that facility, which helps cancer patients and their families.

Bava also went to Sarasota, Florida, where he spent time with his family as a child, Chicago and tennis clubs.

“I went to meaningful places, places that had significance,” he said. “It wasn’t random. Was it memory lane? Yes.”

Bava said he did not set out to write a book. He simply thought it would be interesting to talk to Baby Boomers while traveling the country by plane, train and automobile.

He started conversations with people his age during baseball games, at coffee shops or while riding in a dining car. He spent a month living with a Baby Boomer couple.

Initially he didn’t have plans to do anything with the information he garnered.

But about two months and two dozen people into it he realized he was onto something and he should start a formalization process.

That prompted him to start a blog, which he said became very successful and was the forerunner to the book.

“When I finally decided to immerse myself in it, we really had almost a business plan with a vision, mission and goals,” he said. “It wasn’t as if all this was done by happenstance.

“One thing we decided was the interviews had to be conversations,” Bava added. “We knew no one would give us their innermost thoughts if I had a clipboard in my hand. This is not a survey. It’s a commentary.

“I just kept traveling, being gregarious, being outgoing,” he said. “With each different successive conversation came a nugget of interest. Never one time in this whole process did I ever engage in a conversation where somebody didn’t talk.

“It was probably the most satisfying of this whole process,” Bava continued. “It was enriching. Probably because I didn’t have any ultimate goal it made the richness of the discussion natural.”

Bava said “In Search of the Baby Boomer Generation” addresses some hard-hitting serious topics such as grieving over lost loved ones and caring for elderly parents, as well as nostalgia.

Bava said he found many common traits among Baby Boomers, who are defined as being born between 1946 and 1964. He said they generally have a longing for the past, don’t want to be their grandparents grandparents and overwhelmingly don’t want politicians messing with Social Security.

Most, if not all, are also technologically savvy.

“In fact, some Baby Boomers will get mad and say, ‘Well, who do you think invented the technology?’” he said.

He credits social media with the popularity of his blog. And without that there would not have been a book.

But his greatest inspiration came from his wife, Lisa Wodicka, who also helped him during a more recent tragedy.

While in Palm Springs in May 2012, Bava was seriously injured by a hit-and-run driver.

“Right about then everything was really at its apex,” he said. “But the good news is, fast forward through physical therapy and a miracle recovery and I really put the pedal to the metal.

“But Lisa and I decided this is not going to be a woe-is-me book,” he said. “I have my own unique story as a Baby Boomer. But it’s a book presented to Baby Boomers written by a Baby Boomer that takes into account the stories of hundreds of Baby Boomers.”

Bava will share their stories and his at the Del Mar Library Aug. 26 beginning at 6:30 p.m. A question-and answer session will be included.

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