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An Older Dad’s Role as Living Historian

He shares wisdom — and a great collection of old movies — with his kid


He shares wisdom — and a great collection of old movies — with his kid

My wife, Sue, and I married relatively late in life — 37 and 36 respectively — and didn’t have our daughter Maric for another four years. By then, many of our former high school and college classmates had kids entering high school.
 
None of this meant much to me until Maric was in pre-school. Only then did I notice that we were over a decade older than many of the other parents. At the time, the age difference didn’t seem very great. Sue and I, in fact, were often told we didn’t look our age, a backhanded compliment right up there with, “That’s an interesting necktie.”
 
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By the time Maric enrolled in high school, however, we were in our mid-50s. And while I felt younger, I knew that nature had taken its toll. My skin wasn’t as taut; crows-feet were stamped around my eyes; my eyelids and chin both started to droop as if weighed down with granite.
 
Upon being introduced to other parents, I sensed a look that said, "Is this Maric’s grandfather?"
 
Living History
 
I occasionally felt guilty for being the old dad among Maric’s friends. She didn’t seem to mind, though. Sue and I brought memories of historical touchstones, trivial and serious, that younger parents lacked: black and white television and black and white drinking fountains; the summer of love and the decade of assassinations; flowers in your hair; and Vietnam on the news.
 
What the other parents learned in history class, we watched live on TV.
 
(MORE: The Faces That Defined the ‘60s and ‘70s)

Rather than looking upon our reminisces as the ramblings of doddering old-timers, Maric found them to be fascinating insights to a time that, for her, might as well have been the Civil War — the era in which one of her friends thought Ronald Reagan was president. (Apparently, history isn’t that big a deal in schools anymore.)
 
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I made sure to mix pop culture into the stew. At age four, Maric was imitating Jack Benny. Within a year, she’d become a major Laurel and Hardy fan. In her early teens, she was enjoying Alfred Hitchcock classics and demanding to watch our Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies and Perry Mason DVDs.
 
Legacy Planning
 
The stuff I took for granted growing up, like Perry and the gang smoking cigarettes as if paid by the puff, proved shocking to Maric. I knew I really was from a different time when, during one episode, she asked, “What’s that?” She was referring to a phone booth.
 
Not all my attempts at enlightening my daughter were successful. The Marx Brothers left her cold. She found Charlie Chan’s aphorisms irritating. And she flat out rejected my collection of obscure ‘60s psychedelic music for the same reasons I reject her rap and hip-hop: it’s too loud; there’s no melody; and the lyrics are indecipherable. But I’m right, of course.
 
None of these time-trips made Maric a pariah among her classmates. Indeed, it seems to have made her that much more interesting to them.
 
If I’m lucky enough to live another 20 years, I hope to have the same influence on her children. While she tells them what it was like growing up during the War on Terror and the Great Recession, I’ll be there with Mr. Moto, Rear Window and Laurel and Hardy carrying a piano up an endless flight of stairs.
 
You know, the important stuff.

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