Last week, I flew to Tennessee to attend the high school graduation ceremony of my youngest child, a sixteen-year-old daughter, who, by the way, graduated with a 4.2 GPA and several scholarship offers. As my trip neared, I begin to reflect on the fact that her mother and I conceived our daughter while we both were in our forties. I was aware of the fact that we would likely be the oldest parents present. My daughter’s mother and I have gray hair, impaired vision, a touch of arthritis, and bad knees to match. Suddenly I contracted a severe case of vanity and strongly considered dying my hair all black, getting a pair contact lens, and putting a pinch of swagger in my walk.
Although I convinced myself this would be in the interest of my daughter to save her any subtle embarrassment by having a 60-something absentee dad make his first appearance to her family and friends on a walker. Since her mother, who generally wore a black wig, she didn’t share my concern. I rationalized that everyone was familiar with her; therefore, she wouldn’t be subject to the same scrutiny as I would. I supposed that I was haunted by the memory of my childhood when I and the other rascals in our elementary school would make fun of the parents that looked old. My small groups of young instigators and I would tease certain kids about their parents for any reason we could find including being fat, old, skinny, spoke funny, dressed funny, etc. etc. Now over a half-decade later, I had become paranoid that these high school seniors would tease my daughter because of my golden years. Perhaps it was a case of ‘what-goes-around-comes-around’ that haunted me.
A friend of mind suggested that I share my concerns with my daughter. So I called her and asked how she felt about me dying my hair and trying to look younger. I was surprised at her response, which was a burst of laughter. After the laughter passed, she told that she just wanted me to be there and didn’t care about what anyone thought. So off to Memphis I went… AARP discount membership card and all.
The graduation was a joy. Before long, I was no longer looking around counting the parents with gray hair. The gray haired guests that walked straight without walking aids, I assumed were parents but the ones that walked with a cane or bent over, I assumed were grandparents.
Among the gray haired gents, if I must say-so myself, I had the best swagger… perhaps I was the only one trying. The next day, I attended an elementary school program where my daughter’s mother had a niece in the program. Although I had never met the little girl or her mother before, she embraced me with great enthusiasm. My daughter later told me that her little cousin’s father has never been in her life, and her cousin went around telling her third grade classmates and teacher that I was her father from California. She wasn’t concerned about my gray hair, bifocals, or exaggerated swagger. The little girl taught me what was really important… having a father in your life.
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