06/24/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

My Dad at Seventy

My Dad turned 70 a few weeks ago. It was the first time I realized that one day he won't be around.

I have many grown male friends, and I am one of the lucky ones. A number of my friends have lost their dads. And of those that still have them, most don't have much of a relationship that goes beyond a slap on the back and a rare nugget of honesty after a six-martini dinner.

By contrast, my dad and I talk on the phone every few days. Like most father/son conversations, there's the obligatory list of items to cover: the local sports teams (he lives in Dallas and I in San Francisco), my two sons, my three brothers, wives (my parents are divorced) and work.

I recently turned 40, and the past ten years have been pretty golden for us both. We see each other two to three times per year and usually take an annual family vacation. Once every few years we get the opportunity to do something extra special. Two years ago I was living in Los Angeles and was able to get us two tickets to the USC-Texas Rose Bowl. He flew out, spent a few days with the family, and we had the ultimate father/son sports day that ended in his team's last-second victory. I framed the tickets and a picture of us at the game and sent it to him to commemorate the day.

But over the past few months I've been wrestling with some life decisions and have been particularly in need of his input. I am a marketing executive who recently graduated from law school as a second career. In addition, I just published a book that explains the law to laypeople. My heart wants to write but my wallet won't let me (at least not for a living). My dad has had an illustrious career as a scientist, traveling the world giving lectures on DNA Repair and writing over a dozen books. Despite the fact that he knows nothing about either of my immediate career options, law and business, he's always good for some sound advice on how to keep my head level. That's because he knows that I'm not coming to him for career advice; I'm coming to him for that steady hand that only a father can provide.

Its times like this that make me realize that I value my dad's involvement in my life now more than ever. Teenage questions rarely go beyond zits and VD, and young adults are generally too self-absorbed to ask for advice. But now that I'm forty and humbled by life, I've suddenly got a consistent hit list of topics to cover. And career guidance, insights into relationships, and parenting consultations all seem more important to my long-term happiness than the trivial concerns of youth.

The dad stuff hits home because my wife and I are considering having a third child, and I am faced with the question of whether I want to be a dad in my early forties. It's not about having the energy or wanting my life back. I love being a dad, and I'm already committed until at least 2024. What's a few more years going to matter? The question that keeps nagging at me is whether I'll be there for the youngest one when he really needs me.

I find myself doing math and wondering how old a third child would be if I lived until 70 or 80. Will I be there for him (or her) when he's seven years into their first marriage and getting restless? Or when he gets fired from his first job and needs help uncovering that key insight into what went wrong? Clearly I'm not the only person who could help him answer these questions. And like me, I hope that he (and his two older siblings) have relationships with other men from whom they can seek wise counsel.

But one day my dad will be gone. I'll be OK because I will have had him in my life for a good stretch. I just want all my sons to have that same gift.

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