I’m catching up to my father.
Dad was 36 when I was born, which means that when he died in 2003 at age 83, I was 47. Now that I’m 64 instead of being 36 years apart, we are only 19 years apart. I’ve almost halved the gap into which I was born. If Life were a train ride, 83 would still be a ways down the track, but the conductor would be calling out the station.
Early on, of course, Dad witnessed me getting taller and faster. He saw me become a teenager, then turn 21, and finally come in to my man-strength at age 47, thanks to working my own landscape business. I kept growing physically the entire time that he was alive. There were those other growth phases, too. College, marriage, children, coaching one’s children, which is an entire sub-genre of parenting. He wasn’t around for the point at which I started getting slower and weaker nor did he see Martha and me become empty nesters nor observe me as a grandfather.
It would be most interesting to talk to Dad now that we are on a more equal footing. It used to irritate me so much that by the time I was warmed up, Dad was ready to quit when we would play catch. When he got to be in his 60s, he would ask me to put the 80 pound bags of salt in the water softener because they had become too heavy for him. And I can still hear him say, as he often did, “I can’t work like I used to.” He always sounded surprised whenever he said it, too, but I would think to myself, Of course you can’t, you’re old now. But I finally understand that he wasn’t surprised about being old, he was surprised at how fast he got old. Boy, do I get that one. Now.
I’d like to talk to him about all that kind of stuff now. I’d love to throw my arms around him and give him a big smile and say, “I get it now, Dad, and I’m sorry that I didn’t get it then.” And I am, too, even though it was impossible because you can’t “get” an experience if you haven’t experienced whatever the thing is. I know he’d understand.
I don’t want to hear that 64 is the new 44 and all that rot, because it just isn’t true. While there may be much about me that is young, I am not, and that’s not a complaint—just an observation. I’ll live with it, hopefully, all the way to 83 at least, and then Dad and I will be even at last.
Dad had his Doctorate in Education, but he was never self-impressed. This photo definitely captures the man.