Sept. 15, 1976, was a Wednesday. I was supposed to be at work framing houses. Instead, I became a father.
Although 44 years have passed, I remember it like it was yesterday. My wife and I had been married 341 days. I was making $2.75 an hour. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life other than be married.
Lots was happening. I’m sure of it. But the news was full of information that might as well have been happening in another galaxy for all that it mattered to me.
On that particular Wednesday, I was spun off into a different dimension. Suddenly, I had responsibilities. Real ones.
Oh, I had responsibilities before that. I had been in the military, served a church mission, had jobs, etc. But most of those responsibilities I hadn’t taken all that seriously. Just enough to avoid getting into serious trouble.
If 9/11 changed my life, it was nothing compared to what happened after 9/15. I had a wife and a baby girl. In an instant, it became important to pay attention. I was a dad and needed to keep an eye on the world.
Jimmy Carter was elected president that year. NASA announced it had spent $10 billion on something called a space shuttle. Mao Tse-tung died. Chimpanzees were placed on the endangered species list. A volcano erupted in Zaire.
Granted, there were some bright moments. The Eagles released “Hotel California” and … well, that’s pretty much all I can think of.
There were plenty of warning signs for 9/15. Over the course of several months, my wife had become larger, crankier and more prone toward, shall we say, harshness when dealing with me.
Her • “Do you still find me attractive?”
Me • “OW! What the hell? I’m bleeding.”
Her • “I asked, ‘Do you still find me attractive?’”
Another warning sign was the increase in doctor visits — including to someone called an OB-GYN, which I first mistook for a federal agency.
We went to classes. One in particular featured a video that could have been shot only by using special effects.
Then it happened: 9/15 arrived, and nothing was ever the same. Being lazy, indifferent and irresponsible no longer were effective life skills. I made a list of vital changes in family security.
• Remain employed.
• Pay attention.
• Lock up knives and guns.
Did I love my daughter? Are you kidding? I had no idea terrorists could be so cute. All she had to do was look at me and I wrestled with conflicting emotions. Was she hungry? Was it her diaper? Was she scared? Did I need to shoot someone?
Forty-four years later, I’m old, tired and scarred. Not just because of 9/15, but also because of 8/31 and 10/5.
A changing world takes a toll on a guy. When something like this “strikes,” you either man up or you run away. I’m glad I stuck around.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.