John Engel: A father’s birthday reflections

Published: 5/25/2016 5:23:33 PM

Most of my life 50 seemed old. My father was 24 when I arrived, so by the time I reached 26 — when I was still pretending I had life all figured out — my father turned 50. I thought he, and his cohort, were old.

Recently I turned 50, and now 50 no longer seems old.

Instead, even as someone who leans toward the serious side, I am finding 50 exciting, celebratory — even more joyous than 40.

And 40 was great! Lori and I — recently married and living the good life in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains — celebrated my 40th surrounded by friends at a Mexican restaurant, our first-born, Zoe, soon to arrive.

Since then, Zoe and younger brother, Adam, have revealed to me — repeatedly and often with painstaking clarity — how little I had figured out in my first 40 years.

Together, with Lori, they have helped me grow and become more whole as a person in 10 years of fatherhood, than in my previous 20 years of adulthood.

Daily, these precious young people, with their infectious curiosity, zest for adventure and expanding sense of self, bring my focus back to what matters most.

So as my big day approached, excitement in our home grew as Zoe and Adam helped Lori plan a celebration, doing their best to keep it a secret.

My actual birthday, which landed on a Thursday, included a celebratory breakfast with gifts, an all-day hike — by myself — and family dinner on the outdoor terrace of a local restaurant. It was a perfect combination.

But the secret plan was not fully revealed until that Saturday evening, when I returned home to a backyard full of friends, 20 kids buzzing about, and a make your-own-burrito bar. The enthusiastic faces of Adam, Zoe and the neighborhood children, as they guided me into the backyard, will long remain a cherished memory.

Before blowing out the candles I soaked in the site of all the amazing people in my life who had gathered to celebrate and felt blessed to be alive and grateful for 10 years of fatherhood — the most joy and meaning filled years of my half-century of living.

I am confident that 60 — and 20 years of fatherhood — will be even sweeter.

John Engel of Florence can be reached through his website www.fatherhoodjourney.com.




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