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Periscope: This old man.

Byline: Ted Streuli

My old man. I've never quite understood how that phrase came to apply to all fathers, especially those who were only 18 or 20 years older than their sons. Not the case in my house; old man is just the right title.<br />If he were still alive, my father would be 118. His father drove an ice wagonbut beforemy father died he saw two world wars, the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and Neil Armstrong's lunar stroll.<br />When people realize he was 61 the day I was born, "How old was your mother?" is usually the next question, so let's solve that. She was 42. They had been married three years. I was their only child and I was often mistaken for their grandchild.<br />There are a lot of advantages to having old parents. It is almost as those strangers assumed; it's like having grandparents for parents. They tend to go the extra mile without worrying too much about whether you're getting spoiled like a piece of old fruit.<br />By 61 life is settled. There isn't a lot of worry about where the career is going or whether it's time to upgrade to a larger house, fancier car, better social circle. What matters is raising the kid as well as you can before you die, so he did his best to condense it, to cram double the parenting into half the years. Play ball on Sunday? Sure. Go to that Giants-Dodgers game? You bet. Take a trip to Disneyland? Why not.<br />By adolescence, I knew my upbringing was going a little differently than my peers'. I removed my hat indoors, stood when a lady entered the room, walked on the street side of the sidewalk to absorb the splash. Nothing ever splashed, but there weren't many muddy streets. I was the only sixth-grader at Hillwood Academic Day School who religiously watched The Lawrence Welk Show on Saturday nights. Friends only knew of it from visiting their grandparents and considered that ritual a detriment inherent to old parents. I did not.<br />There were drawbacks,most notably his death when I was 15.<br />I was a parent at 29, but became a father again at 45 and 48. Forty-eight is no 61, but that old man label still applies and offers a little bit of insight to my own old man. The difference is that life is settled; I'm not scrambling to pay the electric bill or mentally tabulating the total in the grocery cart. My patienceis greater but my energy and endurance are less. I cannot keep up with the 11-year-old in a 5K run or at the ice rink; he passed me a couple of years ago. But I'm old enough now to know why going to his hockey game is more important than spending an extra hour at the office.<br />There are more old men becoming someone's old man. According to a Stanford University study, the average age of a newfather in the U.S. rose from 27.4 in 1972 to 30.9 in 2015. In that time thepercentage of new dads older than 40 jumped from 4.1 to 8.9 and the rate of those older than 45 doubled from 1.5 to 2.9. In Japan, the average age of fatherhood is 36.3.<br />I'd like to think that means we're raising children in less chaotic, more settled householdswith more resources. But I'd also like to think we old men are living long enough to walk our daughters down the aisle.<br />This old man will enjoy it while he can. On Saturday, the 8-year-old and I are going to settle in on the couch and tune in OETA for a Lawrence Welk rerun.

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Publication:Journal Record (Oklahoma City, OK)
Date:Jun 12, 2018
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