BERRY: It's OK to be an older father

One Sunday morning, as my family was about to leave church, my 7-year-old-daughter, Maggie, looked up at me and whispered, "Daddy, I wish you were 20."
Oct 3, 2013

 

My wife, Amy, quickly pointed out to Maggie that if I were 20, she would not be born. To that, Maggie looked up at me, put a hand to the side of her mouth and said, "I wish you were — 29."

A tiny knot tightened in my stomach like a hard punch from a small child. I scanned the foyer of the church and noticed the fathers with children the same age as mine. None of them had gray hair, bifocals, crow's feet or a middle-age paunch.

The other fathers seemed to have well-sculpted biceps and flat bellies as if they spend hours at the gym each week, and eat salads with baby spinach leaves and sprouts for lunch every day. I imagined those fathers wrestling roughly with their boys, and taking long hikes on warm fall evenings with their families, and carrying their little girls on their backs when their tiny legs get tired.

I asked Maggie, "Why do want me to be younger?"

She just stared at a spot on the floor between her shoes. I didn't pressure her for an answer.

I never thought that being an older parent mattered to my children. In fact, I didn't know that they even realized I was middle-age. I started taking inventory of myself and began realizing my shortcomings. 

I eat plenty of fiber and take fiber supplements just to make sure everything slides around the corners smoothly. I take an Omega 3 tablet every evening for my heart and a male vitamin every morning to keep up the old testosterone levels.

Most fathers with children my age don't even know what AARP is. I, on the other hand, am dangerously close to being able the join that organization and taking advantage of the many senior discounts it offers.

Each night, I make sure my children brush their teeth and do their homework. After I read them a story and say a goodnight prayer, I slip into bed and fall asleep watching baseball, and my wife lays there wondering why I bother bolstering my testosterone.

I have to admit that sometimes I feel old. I can sense that my energy levels aren't what they used to be — and, apparently, my kids can, too. 

Suddenly, I felt like I was depriving my children of having a young dad. I thought my kids deserved a more energetic, enthusiastic father. Therefore, I dedicated myself to getting young.   

On Monday, I did three sit-ups and a pushup. After stretching extensively, I was ready to sit down and watch baseball for awhile. 

On Tuesday, I went jogging. My knees were burning so badly by the time I reached the end of my driveway that I nearly had to be carted back.

On Wednesday, I took a bike ride and got such a severe wedgie, I was grateful for all the fiber I'd been taking.

On Thursday, I played catch with my daughters. I had to chase a football all over my yard because I'd never taught them how to throw. 

On Friday, I called in sick.

By Sunday morning, it became painfully apparent that my young children were stuck with an old dad. I wished I could turn back the clock and get younger. I hoped and prayed that my children would not grow up resenting the fact that they had an old father.

As my family walked into church the following Sunday morning, I asked Maggie why she wants me to be 20. She looked at the ground and said from the side of her mouth, "I want you to be 20 so you won't die so soon."

Then it struck me: Maggie doesn't care if I have gray hair, glasses, wrinkles or a belly — she just wants me around. 

At 7, Maggie is old enough to know that the older a person gets, the closer they are to death. She doesn't care if my knees burn when I run, or if I get hemorrhoids from riding a bike, or that her bedtime and mine are almost the same. Maggie just wants me around — shortcomings and all.

I reached down, lifted Maggie's chin and looked her in the eye. "Honey, I'm going to be around for a long time," I said.

"OK," Maggie said, "because I don't want you to die."

"I'm not going to die anytime soon," I said.

I gave Maggie a hug, and then she ran ahead to catch up the her mom and sister. I watched her as her hair bobbed and her dress flowed behind her and I thought, "I'm one lucky old guy."

              

           

               

            

Comments

MrsParky

Mr Berry,
I say Mr. out of respect for you, even though I am pretty sure I am older than you by a few years. Anyway, "Thank You" for a great article. It made me cry and then it made me laugh. You sound like a wonderful DAD and I appreciate your sense of humor! Your children are very fortunate! God bless you and your family!

LessThanAmused

Good article. You don't say how old you are, but I'm assuming probably mid 40's? If so, we're somewhat alike. I didn't get married until I was 30, first kid came at 32, after months of discussion and 8 months of waiting, last one came when I was 40.

They all left home and one has come back now to stay for awhile. That's fine as she brought a cool granddaughter with her. I survived the maturation process for the most part and I'd hazard a guess you'll survive all the demands too.

Just keep moving and keep them engaged in the world around them and see what happens. Naps are good, but pay attention cuz those years go by in the blink of an eye.

And remember you rest, you rust.

Lanivan

A little off-topic, but...I'll be thinking of you while you are Up North. By the way, weren't you just up there? Think of the Apples! The Wine! And maybe you'll stumble onto some Mackinaw Island Fudge on your explorations...

Have a glass of wine on me; toast your wife's great baking for me; hey - do you have this one on your iPod?.....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N...

LessThanAmused

"A little off-topic, but...I'll be thinking of you while you are Up North"

We're just planning on a couple days up around Traverse for the color. My cameras need a workout and that area is prime territory.

"By the way, weren't you just up there?"

We went up to the straits for our anniversary, but that was way back in August, a looong time ago

"Think of the Apples! The Wine!"

We have 4 bushels of apples already, we're good there. I don't drink as a general rule so there won't be any wine. As for fudge, still got some in the fridge from the Mackinaw trip.

"Have a glass of wine on me; toast your wife's great baking for me; hey - do you have this one on your iPod?.....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N..."

I'll toast her baking for ya with some apple cider. I've got some Seger on the ipod, but not that particular one. I've been on a major Petty kick the last month, but the wife won't let me crank it in the truck. I'll have to suffer thru until I can put on the headphones. :-)

We probably ain't going up until around the 15th now, based on the reports I've gotten on color from folks up that way. All subject to change on a whim though.....

Lanivan

The 15th should be perfect. We have gone up several times for the Macaroni and Cheese Taste-Off/Wine Tasting, which is the day after Thanksgiving, and as desolate and cold as it is then, it's still wonderful.

You still have fudge in the fridge since August?? I can't fathom it....

Uhhh - does this mean you will be gracing us with your presence until the 15th?.....

LessThanAmused

Well, I guess that depends entirely on what I read from the Tribune team, the fine folks of our wonderful little town and the things they say that cause me to respond.
Besides you need me here to put a smile on your face after a long day of debating politics with Vlad and his fan club. Consider me comic relief. :-D

I should clarify the fudge statement too. The fudge that's left at this point is the wife's. Mine was gone in less than 72 hours from returning home. She's much more of a conservationist than I.

Lanivan

I need you and your razor-sharp, finely-honed sense of abrasiveness just so long as it's directed toward Vlad and Co....and not me! I know I now obsessively spell-check, thanks to your 'comic relief' ;-p

Sweet of you to clarify the fudge mystery. Glad to know you're a honey as well as saccharin....

Wingmaster

Spoken like a true Democrat;-)

LessThanAmused

Who rattled your chain?
This ain't a political thread, keep yer politics out of it. Please and thank you.

Wingmaster

Spoken like a true hippie. I did note you actual showed some manners this time so polishing your shtick has helped.

Wingmaster

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Profane, obscene, sexual or derogatory language.

LessThanAmused

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks.

Wingmaster

You obviously read more into my comment then my intent. I expect you can apologize to me but I know you won't. You bring up and steer the topic off course then jump on me like you do every time you get a chance. Your crank is nearly always tasteless and off topic. Now, you want nice back and forth then start acting like it. If not, be prepared to receive it because I don't back down from a fight or a hug!

BTW, 'Ask' should be capitalized.

LessThanAmused

"You obviously read more into my comment then my intent".

Right. Sure. Let's go with that....

"BTW, 'Ask' should be capitalized".

You're right! My world is rocked! I'll fix that right now. Reminds me of the old saying....even a blind squirrel can find a nut every once in awhile.

Have a wonderful day in your bunker...and no, I'm not going to hug you, ever, for any reason. Ack!

My apologies to Mr. Berry also. I initially was answering a harmless question. I will be ceasing and desisting now. Sorry.

Lanivan

I feel responsible for this little off-topic romp, but I note that it did have the effect of highlighting the fact that age is indeed in the eye of the beholder, and that even grown men, regardless of their age when and if they became fathers, can remain child-like, sans the innocence.

sobe

Very touching!

zwesterhouse

I get nervous too about being older. Every white haired cotton top I see -- a casket pops into my mind. I think "dead" Thoughts of being decrepit and no longer employable. Sometimes I feel like just buying a casket and putting it into my bedroom and using it for a new bed. I tell the kids if I don't wake - then just slam the lid shut and be done with it. I have a most difficult time trying to stay positive concerning thoughts of getting older. But when the property tax bill comes in twice a year - I know someday I aint goin to be able to pay it. Or the rest of bills. Then they just take everything I worked so hard for and kick me to the curb. Some kids have already called me a "geriatric cotton top cripple" Even though I play basketball and ride mountain bikes with my kid and his peers on occasion. But its getting harder to play - the pounds just keep piling on. Blubber everywhere. More and more blubber. I just want to file for SSI disability and just be done. Totally done and retired before 50. I see nothing good in aging - only empty words, falling on the ground with cramps sizzling like fish in a frying pan.

runner.girl.

As the daughter of an older father and mother - yes it is! They had me when they were 38, and my brother when they were 44. I'm in my late 20s now. Honestly, I believe it has helped them to age better and keep them in good health. And because they had us when they were older, they had more wisdom to pass on. Sounds like you are your daughter's hero. I hope that continues as she grows up.

 

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