9 Reasons Having An Older Dad Is The Reason I'm The Rock 'N' Roll Loving Bookworm I Am Today
My dad was 50 years old when I was born, but I must have been 15 when I first began to realize that I was in the “having an older dad” club. Although I must have visibly seen that my father was slightly older than the median age of the dads-of-junior-high, his years on this planet never particularly phased me. Perhaps it was because I didn’t see him frequently enough as a kid to spend the quality hours I did get worrying about something as inconsequential as age (my parents divorced when I was five, and my mother and I moved from North Jersey to the Jersey Shore). Or perhaps it was, simply, that perceiving “age” to be this big, all-encompassing-character-assessment formula never really made sense to me.
It’s only with time that I realize the role my dad’s age has played on my own character. Whilst I tend to operate under the “age is just a number” umbrella, I don’t think it would be far-fetched to assume that certain things I’ve picked up from my dad along the years might not have existed had it not been for the lessons he himself acquired from his now seven+ decades on Earth.
Like all humans, my dad isn’t without his faults. One of which — and I don’t really know if he can help this, to be fair — is his ability to incite fear. He’s a tall man with broad shoulders and a full head of hair and a resting face of stern contemplation. He usually smells like an alluring combination of Lipton ice tea, Marlboro Reds, and Dewar’s (on the rocks, not that ice smells but I like to pretend the cocktail has its own aroma — probably because as a kid, I thought “on the rocks” meant “atop fizzing rock candy"). There are few people I worry more about disappointing, and subsequently, few people whose approval I hold so close to my heart.
As my dad’s youngest daughter — his second youngest of six; second only to my 15-year-old brother — I like to think I got to experience the “calm” years. The contemplative years. Here are just nine reasons having an older dad isn’t something I’d ever trade in. Some might be very specific to my own father, but maybe you’ll see a little bit of yours in here, too.
1. He’s Your Very Own Personal Jukebox
When rock ’n’ roll legends like Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash, or rhythm and blues gurus like Fats Domino were releasing tracks like “Heartbreak Hotel,” “I Walk the Line,” or “I’m in Love Again,” my dad was there. I don’t just mean in spirit. He was actually there. The year was 1956, he was 16 years old, and as these hits premiered and took the nation (if not the world) by storm, my dad was along for the ride — listening to the radio and partying it up with his high school sweetheart.
There’s this age-old sitcom scene: The one where a mom or dad is trying to introduce their teenage kid to music from decades past, and the teen reluctantly indulges them only to later deem the tunes “boring,” or “old,” or “way too ‘80s for me.” But I never felt like that. I related so much more to the music my dad could and did introduce me to. And it’s through delving into the rock ’n’ roll albums of the ‘50s and ‘60s that I was later able to transition into a relationship with folk music of the later ‘60s and ‘70s. So thanks for that, Daddy.
2. He’d Rather Watch The History Channel Than Play Sports
When my dad visited me as a kid (before I was old enough to drive and visit him for myself), there was a ritual. He’d lie on this massive, brown leather rocking chair in the living room, turn on The History Channel (back when The History Channel, you know, played actual history documentaries), and sit me on his lap.
It’s not that my dad had a “lack of energy” or anything. To this day, he’s the most active person I know. He rises at 4 a.m. and by the time the rest of the world awakes, he's already accomplished a day’s worth of work. It’s not that he’s disinterested in sports, either. But I distinctly remember my best friend asking me whether my dad ever took me to the park (where all the cool kids went at age 10, you know), and proudly responding with, “No, we watch The History Channel together.”
History, to my dad, is pretty much everything. It’s something he feels passionately about, even if he rarely vocalizes it. Much like he feels passionate about any content that expands your knowledge about big-life-things in some way. And the fact that he trusted me into his little universe — where nothing else mattered but World War II research or Cleopatra’s reign — was never lost on me. Something else that was never lost on me? The fact that he would gift me collections of novels and literary series to sink my own brain waves into (here's to that first set of Harry Potter books in the sixth grade).
3. His Repertoire Of Skills And Hobbies Is Mind-Boggling
I’d like to believe that as I age, I’ll pick up new skill sets and hobbies along the way. Maybe by the time I’m 30, I’ll have learned to play more than the G chord on the acoustic guitar. Maybe by the time I’m 40, I will have perfected more recipes that Kraft Mac and Cheese (because really, why is it so neon?). These are things I hope for, and I’m able to hope for them because my dad has showed me that you’re never too old to learn something new.
Although my dad has owned a successful scrap business for over 40 years, he’s also learned, in that time, to restore antique cars, to fly an airplane and a helicopter, to drive a boat, to build chandeliers, to track down the best estate sales on the East Coast, to cook some mean bacon, to run a farm. He’s never been “too old” to do anything, and that’s a mentality I aspire to maintain as I age, so that one day I’ll have more on my list of achievements than “Most Hours Spent Watching ‘Mad Men.’”
4. He’s Learned That Listening Is A Skill
I used to think my dad and I shared our aversion to talking and socializing. Oftentimes, we find ourselves sitting together in comfortable silence, drinking Captain Morgan and coke (me!) or Scotch (him) while Andrea Bocelli chants in the background. But note the word: comfortable. My dad has seemingly learned that sometimes it’s more important (and far more beneficial to the mind and soul) to listen, rather than speak.
I’ve never been good with vocalizing thoughts and emotions. Writing, sure. Talking? Heck no. Although my dad will always say what’s on his mind (sometimes rather bluntly — which is the main reason I was always deterred from joining the service industry as a waitress), he doesn’t speak just to speak. He takes time to observe and watch and learn about people, and I have no doubt that should he ever try to write a story, his characters would be bizarre and intriguing and creative and cold and fascinating.
5. He’s Lived Through More Pain
It makes sense that the more years you spend living as a human, the more years you spend, well, having experiences. And they’re not all going to be good ones. My dad has endured more pain and heartache that I’d ever care to truly understand. He’s been through things I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, and yet, he’s always found a way to pick himself up again.
As someone prone to bouts of serious depression and anxiety, it’s not unusual for me to revert to my emo ways of youth — to find myself in continuous and toxic circularity. But I think about the things both my parents have been through. I think about how my dad gets up at 4 a.m. every day and just gets things done. And suddenly I want to get things done too.
6. He’s Learned That You Shouldn’t Expect Your Kids To Be Any Particular Way
I think this one took my dad some trial and error, but by the time my little brother and I were teenagers and developing our own senses of concrete and definable individuality, my dad had figured out that it’s futile to expect your children to be what you envision them to be.
I can’t say I remember my father imposing any career goals on me. He never shoved a particular job idea into my face, or pressured me to attend a different university than the one I wanted. Seeing him with my little brother now, I know my dad might sometimes catch himself thinking how great it would be if my little bro took over the family business someday. But he understands that his son is into politics and comic books and writing. He might be a lawyer someday, or he might be Marvel’s next best writer. Either way, my dad will support him. Just as he supported me when I said I wanted to go to J school for four years and then get an MA in literature. Perhaps not the most financially booming fields out there, but ones that make me happy.
7. He’s Taught You That It’s OK If People Don’t Understand Your Relationship
My dad has been married to four women in the course of 50 years, and suffice it to say, people haven’t always understood or respected his choices. He and my mother were 15 years apart in age. He and my step mother are over 30 years apart (remember I said I believe “age is just a number?”).
Perhaps unintentionally, my dad’s relationships have instilled a pretty valuable lesson in me: People won’t always like your relationship, but if you’ve been lucky enough to find someone you actually get along with and find yourself falling for deeply (a nearly impossible feat in a world with seven billion humans to sift through), you need to go for it.
I used to take my family’s opinions on aspects of my personal life more seriously than my own opinions on my own personal life. But it was my dad who, inadvertently, showed me how, well, stupid that is. Because there's no rhyme or reason to desire — no explanation for our enamored souls or sexualities or thought processes. We love who we love. We want who we want. And withholding from those emotions and experiences will likely bring on a life of regret. Better to try and feel and fail than never try at all.
8. He’s Showed You How Not To Quit
I’ve never met anyone in my life who works just as much when they don’t have to, awakes while the rest of town is in restful slumber, manages two businesses, helps support a family big enough to have its own county, endures tragedy only to wake up to be at the office the following morning. Some might call him a workaholic, and he probably is. But my dad doesn’t want to stop living.
As we age, there are less and less things we’re told we should be doing. By 50, we hear that retirement is on the horizon. We should be "downsizing" and "taking it easy" and buying a condo in Florida. My dad was never into that.
I don’t think I’ll ever have the work ethic my father has (if I’m awake at 4 a.m., you better believe I will have a lot to say about it). But I have very little desire to stop living. I want my life to be a full one, even if the fullness is chaotic and weird and inexplicable. Even if the fullness is actually mundane — packed with the comforts of everyday that we often overlook.
9. He Knows That You Don’t Always Have To Like Your Family, But You Do Have To Love Them
And this — perhaps the most important reason having an older dad has been so rewarding.
Family is complicated. I grew up with a traditionally Catholic, Colombian mama, whose family values are intense enough to scare even Danny Tanner away. And a dad whose affection was more often manifested in the things left unsaid than bear hugs or kisses on the forehead.
When you have six kids, I’m sure you get used to drama. When you have four girls, well, things are bound to get nutty. My dad hasn’t always liked our decisions or choices. On more than one occasion, I’ve seen despair, anger, frustration, and resentment radiate from his Polo shirt. But what I’ve never seen is absence of love.
He cares for his kids in such a way that a parent who relies upon morning and nighttime hugs might not really get. It’s fierce and overwhelming at times. It can be confrontational or totally organic. But his love is always there. Even when he’s pissed that one of us backed into a parked car on a suburban street. In the middle of the day. When there was actually plenty of room to back up. Oops. Sorry about that one, Daddy.
Images: Marie Southard Ospina