Paul Brooks took up golf so he would have something to share with his boys when they became teenagers. Smart man. Fathers find fewer and fewer activities in common with their sons as they grow up and mature.
When my sons were small, we connected on every level. I helped them learn to swim, taught them to ride bikes, and every night, told them bedtime stories (with one lying enfolded in each arm). We flew kites and dug for sharks teeth and collected rocks. We made up silly songs in the car and they sang out as loudly as I did. We visited the zoo and played ball and worked in the yard. We visited grandparents and they slept over with cousins.
Then they got to be teenagers. Sing in the car? Dad, you’re kidding, right? Be seen in the mall with you, Dad–do I have to? Oh, and drop me off a block before we get to school so my friends won’t see me getting out of the family car. Family reunion? Boring!
They did let me teach them to drive the car. Usually, it was a Sunday afternoon in an empty parking lot, or down some deserted road. But as soon as they received their license, they preferred to be left alone with their friends.
Life had changed.
I still knew all these great children’s stories, all of which I had made up. I enjoyed the zoo and children’s ball games and everything we had done together. But suddenly, it had all halted.
I went into depression. Not the clinical, see-a-psychiatrist kind of depression, but more of a gentle sadness that washed over my soul. More than once, I said to Margaret, “I was an adult when these children were small and we did those fun things. I’m still an adult, but they don’t want to do them any more.”
It felt like life was passing me by and I didn’t know how to get back on. When the children went off to college, I sometimes drove to visit them there, but felt like a visitor from another planet. I was offended by the clutter of the dorm rooms, didn’t care much for their wild friends, and could not connect with anything they were doing.
After that, matters only got worse. Electronic games and gadgets came along and I was even more the outsider. (To this day, I walk into a cell phone store and feel like Jed Clampett guest-starring on Star Trek. Out of place, geezer, old-timer. Has been.)
Then, gradually, something happened. My children grew up, got married, and started having babies.
And lo and behold, the babies thought I was wonderful. I sang them songs and told them stories and we laughed and giggled. I drew pictures and showed them how to draw. We hung a swing from the tree in the front yard and it became Grandpa’s place with the little ones.
“Grandpa, tell me a story about when you were a little boy.”