Tonight, a really good friend of mine, a guy I have known since my college days, confessed to me that he was a father. Now this guy is a veritable goofball, a man who’s concocted corny humor with me that only we can understand, a good man who married a good woman, a guy that I still give a lot of hell to (and vice versa), the unlikeliest father this side of the Mississippi. But when I heard the news, I felt a real sense of excitement. My face flushed. I wanted to dance a fucking jig. And in fact I did right there in the coffeehouse. It was almost as if I had become an unexpected uncle. When he called his wife, I insisted upon congratulating the heck out of her. Of course, I knew this was a plot to get more visits. A shameless attention ploy. Heaven knows I’ll be visiting the two of them just to see how cute the kid is. Plus, I have this terrible habit of teaching kids to stick their tongues out at an early age. (So far, I’ve taught four or so babies to do this.) My own small way of imparting anti-establishment impulses.
I guess what makes this news so joyful is that this good friend of mine was the first major friend to become a father. Sure, I’ve had acquaintances who’ve had kids. And when the kid’s dragged out, I’m there trying to pull a Mr. Bojangles, playing peek-a-boo and giving the baby all forms of attention. On several MUNI rides, I’ve managed to calm screaming kids down simply by cooing to them, making funny noises, pulling some half-assed Keaton or Three Stooges routine, getting their attention by acting like a nincompoop. It all fascinates the blustery baby to no end and often gets the kid laughing (and, more importantly, not crying). (To this very day, babies stare at me at adjacent restaurant tables, in parks, in strollers. They are endlessly curious. I seem to be this baby magnet. Several random mothers have suggested that I’d make a great father, which seems about as unlikely an idea as the Democrats controlling both houses in Congress. But knock on fucking wood.)
But the thing that makes the news so grand is that I know my friend’s going to kick ass as a dad.
I used to dread the prospect of growing older, back when I was stupid enough to believe that one’s age actually mattered. But now I’m finding that I love it. It’s fascinating to grow older with friends. Sure, we watch helplessly when they make foolish decisions. We try to offer them clues. But when something great like a kid or a marriage or a grand personal achievement happens, when you see the pools of joy filling their faces, it’s just one of those things that makes life so damned wonderful. Because with the joy comes change. And all the things you have in common take on new meaning. Because you realize in their decisions that there’s a little part of you changing in the same way.