BOOK EXCERPT: Geezer Dad by Tom LaMarr

GOOD NEWS BAD NEWS (excerpt from Chapter One of Geezer Dad)
If it wasn’t the boldest decision anyone ever made, it was big for us. After years spent discussing, debating, and generally overthinking our options, we would stop trying to not have a baby. We would place our fate in nature’s hands, enjoy some wine each night with dinner, and see if anything happened.

Something did. We were going to be parents.

We had put in our time as a childless couple. When I first met Sam in her home state of Florida, compact discs were a gimmick that would never take hold. In New York City, she accepted my proposal, hours after dining at Windows on the World, atop a 107-story building that no longer exists. The restaurants and museums of Washington, DC, placed the world within walking distance of our first home, a slim, three-story townhouse. I started my own business as a freelance writer, and was encouraged to learn that my neighbor also worked at home — until I looked out one afternoon to see our street turned into a police-station parking lot. His crack house, apparently, had not been properly licensed. The barrels of semi-automatic rifles, dozens of them, gleamed in the sun.

Three years into our marriage, we moved to Colorado to be closer to family (my brother, an uncle, two aunts, and six cousins) as well as the Rockies (the mountains, not the baseball team). Sam went back to school and landed an ideal job in the field of renewable energy. I worked weekends and nights for clients who compensated me well for the inconvenience of being handcuffed to a computer, and as a result, we bought a more desirable house than I ever thought I’d see with an English degree. Although we had lost our proximity to the National Gallery of Art, the incidence of crack-house raids was greatly reduced. For the first time in our lives, Sam and I felt settled.

A modest commute northwest of Denver, our small suburb had not surrendered all of its character when stripped of its identity as a coal-mining town. Main Street still claimed a disproportionate number of authentic Italian restaurants, and a half-century-old fire burns to this day in one of the tunnels beneath Old Town. Our neighbors proved more interesting and diverse than the ones I’d been expecting to meet, and our bedroom windows opened to postcard views of the Continental Divide. It seemed like a good place to raise a kid.

Now in her second month of pregnancy, Sam had never been more radiant — or obsessed. She went cold turkey, bidding farewell to her two twelve-ounce bottles of Flying Dog beer with Friday night pizza. She made lists of baby names that wouldn’t sound silly in five years. Our groceries were chosen with care; she added new colors like yellow and green.

We were being set up.


The miscarriage left us irreparably battered. We worked, read, ate, and slept as before, but we were not the same. “It feels like someone stole our lives and replaced them with habits,” Sam said to me as I pulled out my Rent One Get One Free coupon. We were waiting in line at Videoglut, as we did every Thursday evening. (People still rented video tapes then.)

“You think our lives are a series of habits?” I said. “I don’t know. Say, do you have four pennies? With tax, it always comes out to four dollars and twenty-nine cents.”

Our house seemed bigger, emptier, quieter. Music didn’t help. The walls absorbed all sound. Complicating matters, it soon became clear that the two of us weren’t going through the same crisis. When Sam told me she was “grieving,” I couldn’t simply nod and say, “I know exactly what you’re feeling.” Having seen the fetal tissue — and having carried it in a clear plastic bag to the medical clinic, an experience I could have done without — I had difficulty perceiving it as a human being. What I had seen was a collection of cells, an unformed pink glob that couldn’t have weighed three ounces, and had never been destined to become something greater. This wasn’t the same as losing my dad. I felt pain, but for Sam alone, for the weight I couldn’t help carry. Of course, I was able to understand that her mourning was for the concept, for the promise of a child. But I wasn’t ready to bury that concept. “We know we can get pregnant,” I said. “We weren’t even off the pill that long. It can’t be that hard to have a baby.”

I was wrong — three words that appear frequently in this account.

What I did see clearly was a lover and friend in distress. The radiance had faded, leaving only obsession. Sam no longer felt ambivalent. She wanted a child. Preferably that instant.

“I’ve watched my friends get pregnant,” she said. “Their kids are all they talk about.” Although I recalled conversations with these same friends about books, music, politics, and weather, I understood why Sam’s memory had become so selective. This was a woman with a profound maternal instinct. In her office and book club, she had always been the leader, the planner. She was the one who collected for birthdays and showers, the one who arrived at potluck dinners with food enough for everyone. Only one technicality prevented her from being Mom of the Year: her not having the child she was meant to nurture and cherish. “I want to hear someone say, ‘Mommy, I love you.’ To me. Is that too much to ask from life?”

Compounding our discomfort, I had prevailed a few weeks earlier in making the case: “What harm could there be in telling our families and a few close friends?” As a result, our misfortune stalked us. Moms and brothers called to offer support and see how we were doing. “You and Sam must really be grieving.” We couldn’t get away from what had gone wrong.

Penny and Carl, two thoughtful friends who happen to be neighbors and successful parents, showed up one evening with flowers, a gesture that brought needed color and cheer into our home. Their act of kindness made me look bad as well, given that they had selfishly written their own names on the card. I was the one who should have ordered flowers, and would have ordered flowers had I not forgotten how, thanks to our two surrogate children. Housecats their entire lives, Bud and Hobbes love nothing more than having nature delivered to them in a vase, meaning a bouquet is generally good for a day after it shows up on our doorstep. The boys are partial to petals, leaves, and stems. The card is usually spared. If a flower arrangement is to have any chance of survival in this less-than-friendly environment, it must seek shelter, fast, on the floor of our shower, its beauty locked behind smoky glass, out of reach to man and cat.

As if saying, “I dare you two to mess with me now,” Sam placed the vase on a dresser in our bedroom. But the boys seemed to know that these flowers were special, and left them alone for an extra ten hours. My wife savored the post-impressionistic splashes of pink, red, and blue right up until I heard her shout, “For God’s sake, Bud, get away from the flowers.” The exhibit closed that evening, with the janitor — me — vacuuming up the petals and stems, or what could be loosely identified as such.

Two other good friends, Ellen and Jane, came to our house with news and a book. The news? They had just submitted a sizable first payment to Global Chinese American Adoptions. They were going to be parents. The book they brought continued the theme. The Lost Daughters of China. A used copy. From the wonderfully funky used bookstore in Old Town, just off of Main Street. Ellen’s the owner. “You should consider it,” Jane said. “Read the book.”

My wife told Jane that we’d do both, and I knew she would read the book. But I also knew Sam wanted two things no adoption agency could provide: the experience of pregnancy, and holding her own infant in her arms.


The median age for becoming a parent has climbed, and Tom LaMarr is the reason. The Geezer Dad author was nearly 48 when he met his daughter, which makes him even older now. A native of Dubuque, Iowa, Tom lived and worked in Council Bluffs and Des Moines, then Jacksonville, Florida, where he met his wife, and the District of Columbia. He studied at the University of Iowa Fiction Writers Workshop, and has called Colorado home for over two decades. He is also the author of two novels, October Revolution, hailed by three separate publications as “a remarkable first novel,” and Hallelujah City. Geezer Dad, his memoir on getting a late start at parenting, is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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