GUEST POST: Tom Slatin’s “My Father was 64 When I Was Born”

Today’s post comes from a good writer friend of mine, Tom Slatin. In this post Tom writes about what it was like to be born to a father who was already old enough to be a grandfather, and the generation gap that resulted.

In addition to writing, Tom is also a very talented photographer and web designer, so take a look at his site if you’re interested!

My father was 64 when I was born, and that in and of itself created perhaps the greatest generation gap I have ever encountered in my life. In some respects, by fathering a child so late in life, I may have skipped a generation.

Throughout my life, my father told me that everything in the world was always subject to change, and if anything could change, it would. My father looked down upon my generation and told me that with every new generation came a new set of challenges upon the generation before it. According to him, every generation would be, among other things, less respectful of their elders, much less productive, and far less responsible.

Somehow, he predicted the coming of the so-called generation me. A generation that believed that the world revolved around them. A generation that believed that the world owed them something. A generation that was indeed lazy, uninspired, egotistical, and borderline failure. A generation that, sadly, embodied every possible attribute that my father expected it would.

I was raised differently. My parents raised me to do good work, even if I wasn’t being paid or somehow compensated for it. My father used to tell me that you either do good work, or don’t do it at all. I was raised to believe that quality, doing the right thing, and personal responsibility and acceptance of others was most important. As time went on, these
lessons became personal attributes, which became both a blessing and a curse.

At a young age, I was thrust into the world believing in fairness, equality, and caring about the feelings and needs of others. My depression came as a result of learning that not everything in the world was as my parents told me it would be. The world is full of unfairness, inequality, and fascism. The utopian society my parents made me believe in simply did not exist.

My father looked at life with pessimism. I couldn’t be sure exactly what it was, and at first, he wouldn’t tell me. He always said that there was something he needed to tell me. Something vitally important that hinged on the basis of the right timing. Something, he would say, that he claimed needed to be said before he passed away, but that day never came. He passed away days before he promised, once and for all that the time was right that he would tell me what he had waited so long to tell me.

The most important conversation was the one I never had with my father. There was an unpleasant feeling that came over me every time I brought up the topic. For the last few years of my fathers life, I would bring the topic up every now and again. It was almost as if my father was waiting for me to ask the right question of him, almost as if the right question would be the key to solving the seemingly unsolvable mystery.

The morning my father passed away I knew that I would never have the most important conversation with my father. Perhaps the conversation was not as important as he said it was, or maybe it was something simple that needed to be discussed. It may have been a question my father wanted to ask me; some facet of my life that was always a mystery to him, but I seriously doubt it. My parents were very much involved in my life, perhaps too much so, even when I was a full grown adult.

They say that sometimes things are better left unsaid. However, in this case, I may never know for sure.

A Generation Gap Filled

My generation (30ish-year-olds) is currently experiencing a pretty unique opportunity to bond with our children. Over the past few years we’ve been living through a total reboot of our childhoods. All of the things that we enjoyed as kids – everything from the Care Bears and My Little Pony to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Transformers – have come back in a big way, and it makes for an interesting situation. Even if you’re not a fan of the new versions of old characters, you can’t help but feel the giddy sense of joy at seeing your children fall in love with the characters you too were once obsessed with.

A couple of weeks ago my cousin and I had the opportunity to take our daughters to see The Little Mermaid on Stage by Disney Junior, a musical play based on the original movie and performed entirely by kids and young teens. It was an awesome opportunity becdause both of our daughters love the Disney princesses and are fans of Ariel in particular, but if we’re being completely honest here, it was as much for us as for them. When Leah and I were kids we were obsessed with The Little Mermaid. It wouldn’t have been an exaggeration to say that we watched the movie a hundred times or more. We could quote every line, sing every song. When we went swimming we would hold our legs together and pretend we had mermaid fins. We lived and breathed The Little Mermaid. So to get the chance to relive a bit of that old obsession, while also getting to see how excited our girls were to see the show…well, that was pretty damn awesome.

Cutest little play-goers in the world right there!
Cutest little play-goers in the world right there!

And the thing is, like I said earlier, my generation has been given that opportunity time and again lately. I can snuggle up on the couch with my daughter to watch Ninja Turtles and genuinely enjoy myself because I still love the characters to this day. I can sit on the floor and play with My Little Pony toys with her and make her happy by actually knowing all the character’s names. I can read her stories about the Hulk and Captain America and Spiderman and be able to have actually conversations with her about the characters because I know their backstories. And all of this, of course, makes her happy as well, because she gets to enjoy the things she likes with mommy.

It may seem a little childish on the suface, but I personally think that a little childishness in life can be a good thing. And besides, what better way is there to bond with your child than to share mutal interests? After all, it can be hard enough to close the generation gap between parent and child, so why not take every opportunity that you can? Relive your childhood a little, and help your kids to live theirs with you in it. 🙂