"Finally Father's Day"

I became a dad at age 50, and it changed my life in ways I never could have expected. It was the greatest gift.

A dad walks in the forest with his daughter after adopting after age 50.

Until recently, Father’s Day was, for me, a day to honor my father. But four years ago, when I was 50, my wife and I adopted a beautiful, two-year-old girl. Now I receive gifts as well as give them on Father’s Day. I am a full-fledged, card-carrying (if late-blooming) dad.

With a six-year-old daughter on one side and a ninety-year-old father on the other, I find myself in the exact middle of the sandwich generation. When my wife and I started the adoption process, some of my friends asked, “What are you doing? You’re too old to be a new father.” And then there were those who said, “That’s great. I’ve always thought you would be a good father. Having kids is wonderful—but they will totally change your life.” That last phrase tended to carry with it an implicit ring of doom.

But not only have I survived, I have thrived. I am no longer an adoptive father, but simply Dad. I feel like an old timer compared with those who are brand new at having children or just beginning the process of filing papers. I am not sure how I got to be so secure. It crept up on me little by little. I even feel somewhat confident in my parenting.

My daughter, Aimee, has opened up a new world to me, a world of responsibility and accountability, and of wonder, amazement, and awe. I have learned more about myself in the past four years than in the first fifty.

It’s true: Having a child has changed my life, in ways I could never have predicted. I see the world differently than I once did. The future means more to me now.

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Of course, I will not be able to retire as soon as I thought I would. There are new financial worries. And things I never imagined I would have to consider at this age: braces, prom dresses, college tuition.

But there are also the innocence and unconditional love my daughter radiates, her curiosity about things I take for granted. There is wonder in her eyes when she learns something new, pleasure in her lilting voice when she catches the kitty for the umpteenth time. There is the grace she exudes when she dances around the living room without embarrassment, and her desire to please me as she does cartwheels.

“Look, Daddy, look at what I can do!”

Just the other day, she cut out two hearts and taped them back to back. On one side she wrote Mommy and on the other, Daddy. Then she cut out a third heart and wrote Aimee on it. She carefully placed the little Aimee heart between the other two and with great fanfare said, “This is me. This is my spot.”

Whew, I thought. This is how she feels: cradled, loved, and secure in our hearts. My eyes moistened as I swept her up in my arms.

Before I became a father, I could never have imagined a gift so marvelous.

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