Well, friends, it looks like I slipped one passed the goalie. I’m going to be a father again at the tender age of 42.
The boys seemed to take it pretty well. Garrett (20) said, “Holy (expletive)! … Holy (same expletive)!” He’s developed a real potty mouth in college. Cody (18) just said “… uhmm … uh … congratulations?” and twiddled his big thumbs. Jenni has been characteristically calm about the whole thing, but has expressed some concern that the baby will be coming out of diapers about the time that I’m going into them. As you can tell, I’m the funny one.
Now, I will admit that I have already begun to experience a few symptoms of aging such as joint pain and phenomenal hair growth in my ears and nose — and I occasionally catch myself driving slowly with my blinker on and pulling my pants up just below the nipple line, but don’t let the frequent heartburn and gas fool you — I’m in my prime. Sometimes, as my old coffee shop cronies and I are finishing up our breakfast and planning our next meal, we’ll spend a little time diagnosing our own illnesses. Let me tell you, folks, those guys are old.
Surprisingly, however, it’s not my age or even the fact that we have two grown children that has given me pause about bringing another child into this world. My initial reservations were likely just a product of being inundated with unrest and tragedy every time I turn on the television. Overwhelmed by the news, I began watching reruns of “Archie Bunker” and “Sanford and Son” — longing for the day when we still had enough of a sense of humor to laugh at a bigot instead of taking it as a personal affront. But I couldn’t avoid it. Everywhere I turned I found politicians treating our Constitution with disdain, casually saddling our children with a debt so unmanageable that it threatens our sovereignty. Those fortunate enough to have a job struggle just to keep fuel in their cars and food on the table. What happens if we can’t repay the debt? Will our children grow up knowing the same freedoms? What if this baby is a girl and I can’t outsmart her? There were too many questions; the world was closing in around me.
I had to clear my head, so I took a drive. With diesel scaring $4/gallon I couldn’t afford to go very far, so I would have to come up with answers quickly. Being a simple man, I began trying to come up with simple solutions. Maybe we could each send a roll of toilet paper to Washington so our elected officials could stop wiping their rear ends with our Constitution. Instead of another career politician, it seems that what Washington really needs is a math teacher. Perhaps we could even send some of our out-of-work English and history teachers to help them understand our Constitution. While we’re at it, maybe we could quit sitting on our thumbs long enough to stand up and show OPEC a different finger - and possibly develop some of our own resources. As I roared down 281 at a blistering 35 mph, ideas began coming at me with every tick of my turn signal indicator. And then, as if by divine providence, I saw it. Unbeknownst to me, the answer was on my windshield - right in front of my face. I needed an oil change and a state inspection.
When I arrived at Kwik Kar there must have been at least a half dozen customers in the waiting area, so I found a seat next to an adoptive mother and her beautiful young daughter. The mother was attempting to entertain her daughter with an I-Phone app designed to keep children quiet while you’re getting your oil changed. A middle aged man sat to my right while another man, around my age and also with grown children, milled around near the coffee pot. A mother/grandmother sat a couple of seats away and soon, a lovely widowed grandmother, on her way to San Antonio to visit her grandchildren, walked in and sat across from me. Eventually, I noticed a pair of big brown eyes staring at me and ignoring the I-Phone. I smiled at her and commented to her mother, “Things have sure changed since my boys were that age.”
Probably against her will, I struck up a conversation and told her that we had an 18 and a 20 year old — and that we were once again expecting. She smiled politely and said, “Congratulations,” but her eyes said “Holy (same expletive as Garrett)!” Soon, both grandmothers joined the conversation and talked of their children and grandchildren. The father near the coffee pot spoke proudly of his daughter and soon another grandfather walked in and joined the conversation. I bragged of Cody’s plans to join the Army and Garrett’s plans to spend the summer in Haiti. We even told stories of adoption and “unexpected” children. As I listened, I began to realize that we weren’t just strangers making small talk about our kids. We were celebrating them — something that I have failed to do for a very long time.
And that’s when it came to me. The answer was simple. What if we just do for our children what our parents did for us? It would take more than a few cups of Kwik Kar coffee and good intentions, but surely we owe them that much. Just leave them the country that we inherited. No more — but certainly no less. Now that’s pretty simple.
I’ve frequently heard the old adage, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. I’m not sure that I truly understood the gravity of this when I raised my boys, but somewhere in the middle of a lube job I learned a couple of things. This is a pretty cool village — and it’s my village. You’re damned right it is.