As I get older though, it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that parenthood is unique in that, if you let it, it becomes the default frame of reference for everything that happens for the rest of your life. You start mentally categorizing events by where they fall on the living timeline that is your progeny, and you remember things in the context of how it affected them. Which, if you have a tendency towards self-absorbed misanthropy as I do, can be a problem. After all, the first 25 or 30 years were all about me weren’t they? But no more; since I became a dad my perspective on most things revolves around the kids. Sheesh, what little need-machines they are.
Anyway, I realized this last weekend that there is at least one benchmark by which I can measure my impending mortality that has nothing to do with the kids: my roughly semiannual trips to Atlantic City with my buddies.
So it used to be, a lifetime ago, that when we were young and on the prowl we would all jump in our cars on any given night and head down to Trump Plaza to gamble, drink and smoke. The routine then mostly involved walking up the boardwalk to the Irish Pub for cheap food and good beer, and then wandering back down the boardwalk hitting every casino on the way until the last of us lost all our money. Then we’d stumble back to the cars around dawn with the stink of vice all over us and just barely enough time for a shower and change before going to work. You know, that kind of fun.
By now though, these trips have evolved into a whole different thing. Long gone is any semblance of spontaneity; these outings to A.C. are planned months in advance. There is no more braving the boardwalk on bitter winter nights; we sit around a table in Puck’s at the Borgata saying how nice it is to be warm. And driving around all night is only a distant memory; now after losing my money I just wander up to a nice, quiet room so I can be snoring by 1 a.m. You know, that other kind of fun.
So sure, I am, in a word, getting old... but at least when it comes to these trips I’m old on my own terms. It’s just me and my buddies, doing our thing, taking one night and not worrying about the kids.
Although… now that I think about it, it won’t be very long before both my boys will be old enough that we can start making our own trips like that. A new tradition of man-fun, if you will. So hey, maybe there’s room for both parenthood and that kind of fun. Huh, another thing to look forward to. Cool.