Danny Henley: Youngest son's birthday makes dad feel a little older

Danny Henley

An old man was rowing a boat on a lake when a frog swam up to him and yelled, “Mister! Mister! I’m really a beautiful princess. Kiss me and we’ll live happily ever after!”

The man put the frog in his pocket and rowed to shore. The frog called out again, “Hey, mister! I’m really a gorgeous princess. Kiss me and we’ll live happily ever after!”

Still the man said nothing and walked down the road toward town. The frog was getting angry at being ignored.

“Why don’t you kiss me? I told you I’m really a beautiful princess.”

“Listen, lady,” the man replied. “I’m 90 years old. At this point in my life I’d rather have a talking frog.”

Undoubtedly, a person’s priorities do change as he or she grows older. But by no means are changing priorities the only sign that a person is getting older. Consider a few other examples that a little research turned up:

- You don’t hold in your stomach when someone young and attractive enters the room.

- You can live without sex but not without your glasses.

- You are proud of your lawn mower.

- Your friend is dating someone half his age, yet isn’t breaking any laws.

- You sing along with elevator music.

- People call at 9 p.m. and ask, “Did I wake you up?”

- When a man winks at a woman she simply assumes he has something in his eye.

I have a few of my own to add:

- People are more inclined to hold a door open for me, even if my arms aren’t full.

- I'm more inclined to groan when I get up out of a chair.

- An increasing number of people refer to me as “sir” and “mister.”

- The occurrences of not remembering what I intended to do next are increasing.

Even though I have another birthday coming up next week -- No. 54 to be exact -- its approach is not nearly as disturbing as the 30th birthday that my son, Jacob, celebrated a week ago.

While no stranger to having children over 30 -- my son, Caleb, turned 32 in June -- for some reason Jacob hitting 30 gave me cause to pause and ask, “Where has the time gone?" Jacob turning 30 really shouldn’t have come as mood buster. After all, he has graduated from college, is gainfully employed and is happily married.

Maybe the realization that Jacob is 30 hit me harder because as a child and teenager he helped me maintain a grasp on my own youth when I was approximately the age he is today.

I grew up loving baseball. Like many kids of my generation, I played it by the hour on vacant lots in my neighborhood. I even dreamed of one day playing it professionally, although as it turned out I had unfortunately been blessed with far more desire to play the game than talent.

While I’ve also worked with Caleb, Amber, Amanda and Anna to hone their ball-playing skills, in Jacob I had a partner willing to go out and practice baseball regardless of how brutally hot or bone-chilling cold it was. Neither did it seem to matter to Jacob that our practice sessions frequently lasted until it got too dark to see the ball or one of us had to grudgingly confess we had developed a blister.

I never resented a split second of the countless hours I spent hitting ground balls, throwing batting practice or acting as Jacob’s catcher because it not only helped me build a bridge with my son, but to maintain a link with my own increasingly distant childhood.

Jacob’s 30th birthday only served as a reminder of just how long it’s been since he and I last played catch, and how long it’s been since I was a baseball playing youth myself. That’s why I’m feeling a little bit older today.

Danny Henley writes for the Hannibal Courier-Post in Hannibal, Mo.