A Tale of Two Fathers

The True Story of One Man and His Two Daughters Born 42 Years Apart

My memoir recounts two tales of fatherhood, one when the Vietnam War rages, Bobby and Martin are assassinated, and I am enmeshed in a patriarchal model of manhood à la Mad Men‘s Don Draper. The other at a time when sexual predators are being outed almost daily, a pussy-grabbing president holds office, and I unexpectedly find myself in a role not unlike Jay Pritchett, Modern Family‘s aging patriarch.

Lilla, my first daughter, is fathered by an oblivious, immature twenty-five-year-old male chauvinist who casually reads Rolling Stone in the waiting room during his baby’s delivery; a man-child who vanishes at the faintest whiff of poopy diapers; who considers his newborn a useless, helpless creature who eats, drinks, pees, defecates, and frustrates his hard drinking, salacious sex, and relentless hell raising.

Gracelyn, my second daughter, is parented by a spirited, self-aware sexagenarian who catches his newborn at birth then cuts the umbilical cord; a man who teaches her to sign to express her wants and needs before she can talk; who regards fatherhood as a sacred trust, the preeminent passion in his life.

“I didn’t think old people could have babies,” was my teenage granddaughter Molly’s initial response when her mom Lilla told her that Shonnie was pregnant. When Lilla explained that it was only older women who couldn’t have babies, Molly reflected a moment, then replied, “I thought they were just going to have cats.”

This is the story of how, and why, a man changed from self-centered sexist to feminist ally, from feckless father to devoted dad . . . and how America changed with him.