Some changes in our lives are obvious and expected, but others not only take us by surprise, sometimes they happen so gradually we don’t even notice.
When I was a kid, I never worried that someone would break into our house during the night and hurt me. There may have been nights I had things on my mind and didn’t sleep well — although I really don’t recall many — but I always felt protected because I knew my dad was there to deal with anything that might happen.
To be fair, we didn’t live in the kind of neighborhoods where that was a big concern. But even if we had, I don’t think it was something I felt that I needed to worry about. My dad had that covered.
Through most of my 20s and 30s, I lived either alone or with one roommate. For a few years it was a wife, but for some reason, I’m not sure the thought of feeling safe — or not feeling safe — ever really crossed my mind. Maybe it’s just that when you’re physically mature and aren’t facing any real threats, you don’t worry.
My life changed in the fall of 1992 when I remarried and became a dad to a 12-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son. I certainly didn’t worry about anyone breaking into the house. We lived in one of the best neighborhoods in Southern California, and the scariest thing that ever happened — heck, maybe the only scary thing that ever happened — was being awakened very early one morning by the Northridge Earthquake.
Of course, that was January 1994, and by then I had already come to a realization. For the first time in my life, there were people sleeping without fear because I was there. I remembered an exchange from the Bruce Dern movie “Middle Age Crazy” where he talked about the time in his life when he had been the “kiddo” and the time when he was the “daddy.” In that movie, Dern was wishing he could be the kiddo again, but I was happy to realize there were people counting on me to keep them safe.
It’s funny. My dad was the most ethical man I have ever known, and I have no idea if he had any sort of weapon — for lack of a better term — to use if someone tried to break into our house. I know for sure that he never had a gun, and I would never use one either. I’m a big believer in the statistics that guns in the home are a lot more likely to be misused than to be used for the intended purpose.
So what did I use? For most of the years my kids were at home, I had a softball bat that I kept beside my bed. I wouldn’t use it to stand up to someone with a gun, but with just about anything else, I would take my chances with the damage that metal bat could do.
I don’t have that bat anymore, but I have one that’s a little more aesthetically pleasing — a Louisville Slugger with my name on it.
I’ve also got an autographed bat in a display case, but if it reaches the point where I have to bring Pete Rose into the conversation, I’m probably in trouble.
Actually, I get awakened a lot more than I used to. My wife of 20 years is having problems with anxiety, and she wakes me in the middle of the night because she thinks someone is in the house. It doesn’t worry me, because it’s not a prowler. She sometimes thinks people she knows — who live thousands of miles away — are in the house, so all I have to do is prove to her that they haven’t come to visit without letting us know.
Just more of the service when you pass from “kiddo” to “daddy.”
All part of being a man.
I learned that from my dad.