Mark is 31-years-old today. It’s sounds clichéd to say it, but it feels like only “yesterday” that I was driving Mary to the hospital like countless other nervous fathers-to-be before. We were living in Indiana at the time, 1,500 miles from family and familiar surroundings. To a then 21-year-old dad-in-waiting, this was terrifying. It was also one of my high-water life experiences
I enjoyed being his dad. I still do.
Mark was born pre-blogging, pre-Internet, and pre-cell phone. There were no other bloggers out there, writing about their unique parenting ways. Mary and I had three years of Jack Hyles under our belts and his book on child-rearing to guide us. Say what you want about fundamentalist demagogues like Hyles—his book on being a parent was helpful in many aspects—so was Dr. Spock, so go figure.
Indiana became a time for post-Xian guilt and other assorted hang-ups. We managed to move out of a cramped apartment over a pizza parlor in Hobart that had cockroaches, and out to the ‘burbs in Chesterton. For Mark, this meant a neighborhood with kids his own age. We bought him a used tricycle—which I consequently backed over with my car.
We lived 10 minutes away from the Dunes National Lakeshore and while I was working as much overtime as I could garner at Westville Correctional Center, Mary and Mark got to enjoy Lake Michigan’s sandy shores and work on their tans. My schedule afforded me every third weekend off, with a three-day weekend. I loved those times of family bonding, and finding things to do on the cheap—because we had very little money.
Eventually, we saved our dimes and nickels and loaded up the truck, a broken-down U-Haul, and made our way back to Maine. Mark now had grandparents and cousins, and woods to build tree forts in.
Fast forward 25 years. Mary and I still live in Durham, in a house we built not far from Mark’s first residence—living extended-family style with Mary’s parents. Mark just bought a place of his own in Providence. We like having him three hours away, rather than the 3,000 miles away and a six-hour plane trip out to Los Angeles, where he once lived. As an aside—Mark once walked 2,500 of those miles, from Savannah, Georgia, across the southern US, making it to Santa Monica Beach in 81 days. That was Mark’s summer of 2010.
Reflecting back on who I was at 31, Mark is so much further along, figuring out how the world works, than I was at a similar age.
Happy Birthday, my son! Glad Momtown and I get to spend some time together with you this weekend, celebrating your special day.