A week before Valentine’s Day, my husband is driving to see my father just north of Los Angeles. Three thousand miles from home, blown tire on a rainy freeway (“Southern California owes me one”), romance is the last thing on his mind. After an afternoon with my father, he will drive to San Diego, drop the car and head to the kick-off of a convention of sullen mortgage bankers and lawyers (those still employed, for now). I talk with him as he drives, reading directions from an online map as he makes his way back to the airport to exchange the rental car. His afternoon in L.A. is an add on to a work trip—and it’s the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me.
My Dad is in his 80s and I am in my 30s (for a little while longer)—he was in his mid-40s when I was born, not an uncommon age for new fathers in our downtown NYC neighborhood. Pushing strollers, graying hair matching silver Blackberries, seemingly worldly and, from a distance, less nervous than a new parent should be. Stepping out from a Paul Smith ad, they appear well-off, accomplished—as if a baby were phase seven of a long ago written, precisely edited business plan.
What those babies will realize later is that their parents will become old before time has stretched far enough through their own lives to cause them to think seriously (barring tragedy) about aging and mortality. They may be starting families of their own, their careers gaining momentum. Winding down is the last thing on their minds.