Kids, I’ve been thinking…
If you paid attention to the title of this post, you’ll realize I’ve been thinking about my dad. Sure, he pops into my mind just about every day for one reason or another. Not in a sad, grieving sort of way. Just in a I still miss him, wish I could get his take on things every now and then sort of way.
But thinking about him lately got me thinking… Where was he when he was my age? I’m 38 now. When Dad was 38, it was 1991. He was working for the railroad. He had a wife and two kids. I know this because I was one of the kids.
At the time, it hadn’t been long, but he was living with that wife and two kids in the first house he’d ever owned. Well, I guess technically, the bank owned it. But his name was on the mortgage. It was kind of a fixer-upper in a neighborhood in southwest Roanoke. Which is kind of funny because Dad wasn’t exactly a handy man. If you wanted a delicious meal or a song sung beautifully, he was your guy. When it came to house flipping? Not so much.
Not that flipping houses was a term that had entered our culture’s collective vocabulary at that point.
But thinking about all that got me wondering about myself. At 38, I’m not married. I have zero children. I don’t own my own home. I mean, I don’t make payments on a mortgage. I’m okay with all of this. But it’s easy to play that What If game, isn’t it?
What if I’d followed Dad’s basic life track? Not saying I’d have wound up working on the railroad. Not many people are these days. Kind of a business that’s all but dried up in Roanoke from what I hear.
Mostly, I mean what if I followed his basic family life track? What if I’d gotten married in my early to mid-20s? When I was born, Dad was 26 years old. What if I’d had a kid when I was 26? I’d be dealing with the angst of a preteen. When I was 12, I was struggling with anorexia. I can’t imagine what my 12 year old son or daughter would be dealing with in a world where social media exists.
About a year before he passed away, Dad told me I needed a girlfriend. I pushed back, questioning this need for a girlfriend. It’s because the girlfriend would lead to having a wife. Which would lead to having kids of my own. And that was kind of what it came down to… Dad wanted to be a grandfather.
I don’t regret where I am in my life. In fact, I’m incredibly happy with the person I’ve become, what I do for a living, and the relationships I’ve formed with the people around me. No, I don’t have a wife. I don’t have kids. Maybe I never will. And that’s okay.
But I have to admit, looking back on that conversation with my dad causes me to tear up just a little. Not because I regret not having found a wife. Not because I regret not having kids to this point. But because I was never able to give him that gift of being a grandpa.
Does that mean I believe he thought any less of me? Does that mean I think he was any less proud of me? Do I think he’d be disappointed in who I am today? Not at all. I know the man that he was and I know that he would be happy simply knowing that I’m happy.
And if I could have one more conversation with him, I’d thank him. For the man that he was. For the man that he raised me to be. For the knowledge that, if I ever do manage to convince some lucky lady to walk down the aisle toward me and then bring a kid or two into this world, I’ll know how to treat them with love because of the example I had for 26 years of my life.