The year was 1987, and a tearful nation said goodbye to Clara “Where’s the Beef?” Peller, a young George Michael freaked out parents with his rampant heterosexuality, and the McMullin clan was marvelling at Disney’s vision of the future at Epcot Center.
It was there that Disney’s least memorable character, who appeared to be a burly homeless man who had shopped at Willy Wonka’s yard sale, posed for a picture being taken by my father and said, “Smile for your Grandpa.” My family had a good laugh about it, but now that I have realized that my Dad was maybe a year or two older than me at the time, I am guessing that he found it less humorous than the rest of us.
- White shorts and a Swatch? I had it going on.
If there is one thing that I have learned in the five and a half months in which I have been a father, it is that it would have been much easier to be a dad at 28 than it is at 38. If I have learned a second thing, it is never where a nice shirt when you burp a baby. I no longer own any shirts that don’t have a stain on the right shoulder which resembles the Galapagos Islands.
Even as recently as a few years ago, when I was single and all three of my daily meals sometimes took the form of some variety of burrito, I pretty much felt mentally and physically the same as I had since my mid-twenties. All of that came to screeching halt just in time to have a baby. Babies, as it turns out, require a lot of bending over. Who knew?
The first cracks in the veneer started to show when my wife and I decided to put wood floors down in three rooms before moving into our house. While the box promised “Installation over a weekend,” the good folks at Armstrong failed to take into account the work of my father and I. Two people whose names have never been associated with the phrase “Old world craftsmanship.” So a few months and several thousand squats to the ground later, I ended up straining my hamstrings. Apparently that one time I stretched in high school gym class did not get me properly limbered up.
After a lifetime of rolling my eyes at professional athletes who were put on the disabled listed for an ailment which sounded like the consequence of not keeping Kosher, straining my hamstrings resulted in the longest recovery of my life. It probably didn’t help that I spent months telling Jen that I was fine as I fought back tears after standing up from the couch.
Middle age caught up with me just in time for the most physically demanding job of my life. (And I worked as a roofer for one day. Long story.) I risk waking Matthew every night when I walk him to bed among the creaks and pops that come from either my knees or the (practically) professionally installed floors in our house. It is about 50/50 at this point.
Lugging around a baby, and the gear they require on a daily basis, is like working with a narcoleptic personal trainer. He yells at me to get me motivated and then falls asleep in a heap And the physical demands are nothing compared to entertainment demands. Every night, I am singing songs, making funny faces and doing some inspired mime work. Now I know how Don Rickles must feel doing three shows a night in the big room at Caesar’s.
Either a picture of "Mr. Warmth" Don Rickles, or an artist's rendering of what I will look like at Matthew's high school graduation.
While all of these things remind me that I am not getting any younger, my beautiful wife is always there to comfort me. Whether it is by reminding me that I am practically 40, or by asking me where I was when I learned that Richie Valens and The Big Bopper had died.
But even if I do feel like I am falling apart and Jen’s gentle reassurance makes me think that I will be nothing but a cryogenically preserved head by the time Matthew gets married, I know that if I had started a family when I was 28 that it wouldn’t be this family. And that makes all the difference. So I guess I can deal with the creaks and the strains as long as……oh, God my back!
Forget vertical stripes and stove-pipe hats, the best way to take attention away from your double chins is by holding an adorable baby in front of you.