Young Dad, Old Dad…
(CN: Parental Health, Parental Death)
It was the Schmoo’s 10th birthday at the end of February. She requested an excursion to the University of Cincinnati Rec Center’s Climbing Wall, so off we went to watch her and her 10 closest friends clambered up and down the fake rock face. A fun time was had by all. There was cake. I had most of my fun watching and taking pictures, because there was no fucking way I could do any serious rock climbing with my fucked up left foot. Yeah, I have chronic plantar fasciitis in my left foot, I’m actually due to have it operated on at the end of March. It’s really painful and has turned me into a bit of a grouchy slug, because every step I take involves some amount of discomfort. It ranges from medium levels of ouchie tenderness all the way to please just chop my foot off throbbing heel pain. My podiatrist and myself have thrown everything at this ailment and we finally gave in and decided to put it under the knife. So yay me!
The confluence of these two happy occasions has gotten me thinking a bit about family planning and life planning and the inevitable conflict between those plans and relentless journey towards rigor mortis we are all undertaking. I’ve been a parent for 10 awesome years. Ten years that saw me go from a moderately athletic 36 year old, someone with the occasional ache and pain but still willing to dive wholeheartedly into a game of tag or catch, to a formerly athletic 46 year old who limps everywhere and couldn’t run if his life depended on it. It seems that just when my Hellions are starting to hit their stride as full fledged little people who need to get outside to run, jump, and play, my ability to keep up with them is failing.
It’s largely bad timing. My next door neighbors, a lovely couple just cruising into their mid thirties, had their now teenage daughter when they were quite young. They have never had the problems I’m having now because by the time he is “Old Dad” his kid will be in college. As a matter of fact I have guys I went to High School with who are already grandparents because they started their family in their 20’s instead of 30’s. Because I didn’t even meet The Girl until I was 32, we didn’t get married until I was 34, and started popping out Hellions at 35, I’ll be “Really Old Dad” when/if I get grandkids. There was only a brief window in which I could be “Young Dad”. I did my best with that time I think, but that time is definitely over.
The worst part of all this is that I used to know someone who had done both jobs. I was my Dads first kid way back in 1968, by 1971 there were three of us. Eventually there would be eight. When I was 10 my Dad was still a spry 34 year old. We used to go jogging together as I trained for cross country as a teenager. He was our soccer coach, heck he was EVERYONES soccer coach. He played softball for the radio station and he was an indefatigable hiker. Sixteen years later, when my youngest brother was 10, there was a different Dad in place. This one still coached soccer (he coached soccer for 20 years,) but he couldn’t dive into drills with the kids like he did with Tony and I. He still liked to camp and hike, but couldn’t go quite as far or as long as he used to. Middle age hit him pretty hard, he ended up with pretty bad and largely untreated depression issues and hypochondria complicating his later years. He had finally started to turn the corner and get help when, in November of 1999 he walked out to get the paper and was struck by a minivan driven by a young woman who had a seizure behind the wheel. So I never got to talk to him about this stage of life. I’m sure he would have had something funny to say at least.
I suppose I should have prepared myself better. There are plenty of people my age who are still active and healthy, who play soccer or softball on the weekends. I have two uncles with 10 to 20 years on me who run marathons for fuck sake. And yes there’s a lot I can still do now once we cut off my left foot. But this 10 year anniversary of my entry into fatherhood has thrown into sharp relief all of the experiences I will not be able to have with The Schmoo, Peanut or Grommet simply due to the bedeviling constant that is time passing. And what an enormous privilege it has been to have been able to do what I have so far, considering that there are many people whose lot in life, either due to accident, illness or genetics will rob them of their time as “Young Dad” or “Old Dad” or “Any kind of Dad at all”.
So Happy Birthday to the Schmoo. Keep growing up awesome. I’ll do my best to keep up.
Image Credits Blotz Photo Arts