Saturday, August 11, 2007

Double Nickels

As with most guys, I never kept a diary. I did, however, have my heart set on writing a journal. It was intended to be a time capsule for our kids…a reflection written every five years on the milestones in my life. As a new father of a baby girl at the age of 30, I looked upon this prehistoric blog as an opportunity to give them insight on what was happening in my life at those major turning points. I wanted them to know the excitement their mother and I were feeling as parents.

I guess I wanted to provide answers to questions that were never asked of my father. Information my dad certainly wouldn’t have thought to have sat down and written about when he was 30.

That’s how old he was when I was born. Already the parent of my older sister, perhaps the newness of fatherhood had worn off and he was simply happy to have a healthy son and daughter. He had survived the rigors of World War II as a gunnery sergeant in the Air Force. “Keep ‘em flying” was what he had written as his motto in his high school yearbook. And keep them flying he did; he simply never talked about it. Perhaps it was that generation – The Greatest Generation as Tom Brokaw wrote – that wouldn’t allow themselves the pain of remembering.

Except for a few faded black and white pictures, there aren’t a lot of things that I know about him when he was 30. There are the stories that my mother still tells, but I’m sure my father had a different perspective on a lot of subjects.

And so, I wanted to make sure that our children had these personal moments in time recorded on paper. Of course, in 1982, there was no such thing as the immediacy of the Internet. And while I even made a living of putting words to paper, the daily activities that we call life somehow kept me from keeping the journal. By the time I turned 35, my own son was already three years old; we had moved to a bigger city and a new career was keeping me busy. Somewhere Harry Chapin was warming up with “Cats In The Cradle.”

I was prompted to write these thoughts down as a result of peeking into my own son’s published world on He is now a young adult out on his own, and while I’m not terribly thrilled by what I read there, I no longer think of it as spying. It is “his” space after all, and I’m delighted that such a medium exists.

I was, however, taken aback by part of his profile. Written next to the question, “The Person I’d Most Like To Meet” he had written: My father’s father.

And I wanted to say, “Yes, son, I would have liked to have known him as well.”

Unfortunately, my father died at the age of 55. And the thirty years that separated us in that period growing up in the late 70’s was a distance far greater than time. I was 25 years old, just married and starting on a career path I’m sure my father never dreamed I would obtain. We were just beginning to bridge the silence between a much-too-conservative father and a more-liberal-than-he-ever-knew son.

It was a span started much too late.

For those of you tracking the math, you know that I stand at that precipice today. One thing I have learned over the past 30 years is that the milestones are not the birth years themselves. They are merely the mile markers.

Although I didn’t keep a journal on a five-year basis, I truly hope my wife and I have nurtured a relationship with both of our children that doesn’t mandate we write down every single memory.

So that whatever medium that presents itself to our children’s children, my son won’t be reading those same words from his.

In other words, “Keep ‘em flying.”