I'm Twice Your Age!
Old Enough to Be Their Father
My twins will turn 35 this December. Three days before their birthday, I will turn 70. It’s the only time in our lives that I will be exactly twice their age.
They came along when I was 35, so we’ve only spent half my life together. And they actually lived with me for only 18 of those 35 years. Hands-on parenting turns out to be a short-term enterprise.
Now, at 35, they’re old enough not to need my advice, and at 70, I’m old enough nevertheless to offer it. They’re also old enough to pay for dinner when we go out, and I’m old enough to insist, No no no — here, have some of our fixed income . . .
Mostly, though, I monitor their lives thinking: Thank God I’m not having to deal with that any more! Earning a living. Interfacing with bosses. Worrying about the continuity of your health coverage. Pondering whether to have children and/or how to raise the one you have. Wondering about the future. Wishing Dad would stop sending articles.
They’re in the thick of it. Me, I’m cheering on the sidelines. Sometimes, though, I want to get up and run another race. Could there be another adventure ahead for my wife and me — something as exciting as a career change, a baby, or moving to a new environment? Certainly for my kids, the answer should be YES! MORE ADVENTURES AHEAD. Otherwise I’d really feel sorry for them. But for us? Is there a way to keep our wonderful life intact while stepping into a new life, of sorts, only without killing ourselves on motorcycles, or acting like 70-year-olds who are trying to be 35?
Throughout my working life, I often fantasized having a one-year sabbatical — everybody should be entitled to one, however they make their living, sometime between the ages of 35 and 60, to figure themselves out — during which I could be a full-time artist. Now I’ve achieved exactly that status: full-time writing, playing music, making visual art, curating friends’ projects, doing all the things that I love to do. Yet I also feel a restless urge to bridge the gap between art and life, to become less an observer/creator, more a participant. In what? I dunno. Maybe I could try to help launch a nouveau hippie commune — but I love my home and my Covid-enforced privacy too much. Maybe I could try saving the world — but the chaos out there has overwhelmed my sense of solutions.
A lot of what I daydream about, moreover, requires more money than I can safely spend: to live on a boat; to open a retail store; to rent a house for an entire year in the Canadian Rockies; to go to school and becoming an environmental scientist or engineer; to acquire land beyond my 1.5 acres and build an animal sanctuary . . .
I could, of course, simply focus on becoming a better, deeper, more serious artist — and a better, deeper, more serious human being — but my desire is to do something less solitary, pandemic notwithstanding . . .
For now, the temporary answer — the booby prize — has been adopting a dog, as millions of other people have done. Mine’s a giant: Elsie, my Newfie. I got her at 7 weeks when she weighed 12 pounds; she’s now 16 months and 110 pounds. I walk her for a couple of miles each day, which is a vast improvement over a few years ago, when I could barely leave my computer for five minutes a day, let alone a couple of hours. I walk Elsie, I train her, I wrestle with her, I brush her, I love her, and she’s almost enough of a diversion to satisfy me. Animal sanctuary, indeed. By the time she dies in ten years or so, I’ll probably be too decrepit to even fantasize about the rest of it.
By then, too, global climate change will definitely be pushing us all into new “adventures” — floods, hurricanes, fires, droughts, mudslides, collapsing buildings, mass migrations, new pandemics . . .
Unless I become a brilliant environmental scientist or engineer!
In the meantime, here’s a guitar instrumental that was inspired by my dog: “Elsie’s Jump.”
—Lawrence Bush for Alte: Getting Old Together