Archive for July, 2012

Coming Late to Being a Dad

“Be Vulnerable” by Garnet Goldman

A version of this column originally appeared on Paul Garber’s Website:

My 40s came and went before Sparkle Girl and Doobins and Garnet entered my life. Because the time without them has much to do with how grateful I am to have them in my life now, I would like to talk about that first.

In my early 20s, I took it as a given that I would marry and have children. Not too soon, though. I had some things I wanted to do first. So I would get married in my late 20s and have kids sometime after that. That was the plan. When I reached my early 30s without any sign of that happening, I didn’t fret too much. I still had plenty of time. As the years continued to pass, I never stopped wanting to get married but I did find myself wondering whether I should let go of wanting to have children.

It was becoming awfully late to get started and I had grown accustomed to being able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. If I had kids, that would be the end of that, eh? And did I even want the responsibility of having kids at all. Maybe I should get a dog and see how that went. I got a dog. I liked that quite a bit. So I stopped fretting about the responsibility part.

Didn’t matter. No wife, no kids. When my late 40s arrived and I still had a hole in my heart that I had been hoping that a wife and children would fill, I saw that, if I wanted to lead a healthy life, I needed to find a way to accept that the hole might always be there. I cannot say that I was able to talk the hole into disappearing but, over time, I came to be on cordial speaking terms with it. It helped immensely that, in other respects, I was a lucky guy. Good friends. Good job. Good dog. I would be fine. I was fine, mostly.

My 50th birthday came and went. And then along came Garnet and Sparkle Girl and Doobins – a package deal that included two kids, no waiting. I was a couple of weeks shy of my 55th birthday when we all drove over to the Davie County Courthouse to make it official. Even though we had an appointment, we had to wait. First, the magistrate had to deal with a heavily tattooed guy in handcuffs that a deputy had brought in. Later, someone said that we should have asked him whether he would be willing to be a witness.

So, here I am. One wife, two kids.

I don’t know why I was given a life in which a family arrived so late. Certainly, it has its drawbacks. I know that, when younger dads are chasing their children, they have to fake not being able to catch them. Not me. When Doobins says, “Nyah, nyah, you can’t catch me,” he is absolutely right. And thinking about still holding down a full-time job at the age of 70 so that we can finish putting Doobins through college makes me more tired than I already am.

I do know, though, that all that time without them in my life has enabled me to appreciate the gift I was given to a depth that my 27-year-old self couldn’t have. Remembering what it was like without them, I savor my life today. Sometimes, I think about who has been entrusted to me – not just any two kids, but these two. Of all the kids in the world I have known, these are my favorite two. If it was necessary to wait for them to come along, then I am happy to have done so. It was well worth the wait.

When I imagined having kids one day, I pictured everyday events that have come to pass. The everyday experiences are different, of course – reality has a lot more sticky things in odd places that need cleaning up. But my imaginings of doing this and that have at least been in the neighborhood.
What I had no idea about, though, was the way that kids – while doing the simplest things, sitting at the table eating a bowl of cereal, smiling while handing you a just-finished drawing – can waltz right into your heart and flip on the light, illuminating places that you had no idea existed until that moment.