Clyde Edgerton is a funny guy.
Funny ha-ha, not funny weird: His first two comic novels - Raney (1985) and Walking Across Egypt (1987) - are those rare works of literature that make you genuinely LOL.
So when I learned that Edgerton has just published a parenting guide, of all things, I expected to get a few laughs.
What I could not have anticipated was that his Papadaddy's Book for New Fathers: Advice to Dads of All Ages would make me a wiser and more relaxed father, too.
Starting today, at any rate: Edgerton's counsel comes a bit late to benefit my own kids, Bennett and Reid, who are now 30 and 27. (Sorry, boys!) But if there's a trepidatious father of any age in your family or social circle, slip him Papadaddy's Book this Father's Day. It beats all hell out of Yet Another Tie.
I said "of any age" there for a reason. American fathers "are older than they used to be," reports Edgerton, "and are also spending more time with their children." Indeed, special sidebars addressed to the "C.O.D.," or "Considerably Older Dad," pop up throughout the book.
(Historical aside: Edgerton got the term "papadaddy" from one of his favorite stories, Eudora Welty's "Why I Live at the P.O.," in which Papadaddy is an uncle of Sister, the main character. "My oldest son, Nathaniel, seems to have intuited the name when he was 1 year old. He started calling me that soon after he started talking.")
This whole time-with-tots trend is a good thing, Edgerton continues - so long as you overlook the elephant in the romper room:
The bad news is that the older you are right now, the less time you'll have with your children (or with yourself, in your present form). So it's important to live healthily if you like being with your kids (and yourself).
Like the papadaddies in our related slideshow, Edgerton is currently "down in the weeds" with his own fathering: He has a 30-year-old daughter, Catherine, from his first marriage, and a new brood of three kids under 10 from his second: Truma, Nathaniel and Ridley (left). Edgerton's wife, Kristina, a PR specialist whom he married in 2001, is 44.
I asked Edgerton why he believes "men with children live longer than men without them."
"Well, I have no research to confirm it," he admitted. "But I suspect that having three kids underfoot will make me live longer than a control group of fathers without kids. Now, if they were beating me up or poisoning me, of course, I would not."
Warmhearted and reassuring, Papadaddy's Book encourages both newbie dads and those attending their second (or third!?) rodeo to slow down, lean back and savor the experience.
"I'm not," Clyde Edgerton quickly adds, "suggesting you wait until you're 60 to have more children."