scholars and rogues

Biological clocks and bears

by Terry Hargrove

Two years ago, I decided it was time for my son to learn a sport. You can’t put these things off forever. I let him play with toys and have fun and watch Dora for four years, but it was career decision time. Because I have the financial wisdom of a duck, his success as a professional athlete is my nest egg. But I don’t want him to play professional football. Too violent. Basketball is out since he probably won’t be able to jump higher than is necessary to reach the top of the refrigerator. Blame the Hargrove-low-leaping gene for that. And if he’s like me, he’ll have a glass jaw and a peaceful demeanor, so hockey isn’t an option. That leaves, in order of preference, baseball (money and great seats!), golf (lots of money!), tennis (a fair amount of money if expensive private lessons work), soccer (no money), bowling (no money, plus tremendous capitol outlay for nachos and beer) or fishing (no money, I co-sign for boat loan, and he‘ll wreck my truck on boat ramps at least twice).

My problem is that I’m old! No matter which path I, I mean, he chooses, he needs practice, but all I want to do is nap. Still, I did this to myself, and so, as a public service, I’d like to warn old men like me about their biological clocks. Yes, sadly, guys have one too. Read this carefully, dudes, and weigh my words with fear.

If your birthday was more than four decades ago, and you‘re thinking about having kids, we need to talk. Yes, yes, yes, it’s going to be wonderful and magical and all that other crap, but we still need to talk. Are you sure you want to do this? Having a baby when you’re a middle-aged man is like deciding to eat a bear to keep from starving in the woods. Now, the bear is edible, but before you commit to attacking and eating the bear, stop and think about it. If you decide the bear must die, then stop and think about it again. No matter how delicious the bear might be, this is still a bear for crying out loud. So, you want to have a baby? Stop and think about it. Still yearning? Stop and think some more. This is not some mid-life crisis that an overpriced foreign car can fix. This is a baby, a crying, yelling, expensive, needful thing that will break all your stuff and makes a crappy rug. Literally.

Still want to go forward? OK. The first thing I can tell you is to ignore the pressure you might be feeling. It’s really your wife who will decide whether or not you want to be a dad, and powerful indeed are the weapons she will use to convince you. Wives don’t need convincing, they need babies, with little baby clothes, and little baby boots, and tons of little baby toys.

I should point out here that when I say a guy wants to be a dad, what I mean is that there have been from 3 to 10 episodes over the previous month, each lasting from .001 to 12 seconds, where a guy has thought: “Hm. Maybe having a baby now that I’m older and wiser isn’t a bad idea. I know what mistakes not to make, this time.” Then the guy will have a beer, and the idea will evaporate in a belch.

But unless the potential mom can catch the guy at one of those precise, pre-burp moments, he‘ll need convincing. We’re funny that way. Don’t worry ladies. It’s easy to get the male on board. All it takes is two plane tickets and some key lime pie. You can get a man to say yes to anything if you take him to the Florida Keys.

This is one of those secrets guys don’t like to spread around, but the simple reality is that when a man is sitting under a palm tree, enjoying blue seas, cold margaritas, and a Gulf breeze, the Keys work their magic. It’s 79 degrees on January 2, and the guy feels 24, and he thinks he’ll always be 24, even though he is, in fact, a multiple of 24. Ghosts that have been dead for centuries will sit next to him and laugh at his stories. They’ll feel 24 too. Until you’ve watched a December moon rise from the Gulf on New Year’s Eve while lounging in your underwear, you haven’t lived.

So there I sat, between the spirits of Toothless John the pirate and a Seminole prince named Always Hungry, when my wife appeared and said:

“You know, I think you’d like to have a baby. It’s time we had a baby of our own.”

“Bleeeurrp,” I replied.

Then she wafted away like sensuous smoke on the Gulf Stream. I sat there and nodded. Yes, I would like a baby. My daughter Katie needs a sibling to help get her through college. I don’t want to wait until I’m old and fat.

“Arrr,” said Pirate John. “’Tis time, indeed. Yur just a yonker, after all. I’ll be 317 in March. How old do ye be? 24?”

“I am 24,” I replied. “I think. 24? There’s a 4 in my age, and I feel 24. Look. I can use my stomach as a table.”

“Eat more pie,” said Always Hungry. “Is time to increase your tribe. I increased mine long ago. Now have more than 800 descendants, but still get crap on Father’s Day. In fact, died looking for little child. Thought she was lost, but she was sleeping.”

“How did you die?” I asked.

“I was very hungry,” he said. “Got lost in swamp, saw bear. Looked tasty. I was very hungry.”

That’s the thing about bears. Yes, we know they can kill us and kill us quite easily. But when you’re hungry, they do look tasty, and there’s a part of a guy that is always hungry, and the older he gets, the hungrier he becomes.

And if you’ve never tasted one, let me tell you. Bear is delicious. Sorry, I have to run. My son is playing with a soccer ball.

Terry Hargrove lives with his wife and son in Connecticut. His first volume of columns, Don’t Mind Me, a Tennessean Lost in Connecticut, is available at ladder, at and at He’ll sign it for free.

He loves being an old dad, and he has never really eaten a bear.


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3 replies »

  1. I have so far avoided the temptation to have children. This is something for me to remember, because one day I’ll be over 40 myself, and it will be good to have reminders….

  2. My wife had our only child when I was 44. From the chilid’s point of view, a younger father will likely spend less time with the kid because the younger father may be more selfish. When you’re older, you may be less egocentric and understand how much time a kid needs. It’s true, though, 14 years on, I do less sports with him. But he plays sports with his friends now. Alas, though he’s more coordinated than I was at that age, doesn’t look like he’ll be a professional athlete.