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Being father later in life offers Auburn man perspective

Barnidge says he will always be son’s guide until he strikes out on his own
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn resident Dean Barnidge said becoming a father later in his life was an eye opener, but now 8-year-old Jacob calms him down and offers him perspective. Barnidge, 54, works in product processing at CVS Pharmacy in Auburn. “I was 46 (when Jacob was born),” Barnidge said. “It wasn’t so much a surprise, because he was planned, but it was 19 years in a previous marriage and we tried unsuccessfully. So, that many years later to have it happen was an eye-opener.” In an article to the Journal Barnidge expressed what it was like to find out he was going to be a father for the first time later in life, although he has two adult stepsons. Barnidge said he initially thought about what he would be giving up, but then his thoughts changed when he saw the sonogram of Jacob. “All thoughts of what I would sacrifice immediately were replaced by thoughts of what would come,” Barnidge said. “I became an expert about pregnancy and wasted no time lecturing my wife about what she should and shouldn’t do. I was attentive to her comfort and bent on making sure she did not over do it. I turned into a nuisance. I had never been a nuisance my whole life but I didn’t care. This was my son.” When Jacob was born he suffered from respiratory distress, meaning he wasn’t breathing, and Barnidge had to worry about losing his son before Jacob’s life even began. Jacob was in the intensive care unit for a week, but recovered and is now a healthy and talkative 8-year-old, and Jacob assures his dad he shouldn’t have worried. “I wasn’t even dying, I was just holding my breath,” Jacob said. Barnidge said he and his wife, Laurie, are involved in multiple aspects of Jacob’s life including his education at Rock Creek Elementary School, and that they volunteer as much as they can. Barnidge is also a Cub Scout den leader for Jacob’s Pack 269. When speaking to Barnidge and Jacob, it’s easy to see that Barnidge wants his son to be independent and tell his own stories in life. Jacob talks about taping two old play swords together or he and his father swimming in their apartment complex pool without Barnidge doing anything but looking down at his son and smiling. Barnidge said Jacob has helped him become a calmer person and extend his ability to be patient. “He is kind of like my barometer to what’s going on with me,” Barnidge said. “The biggest thing that is part of him calming me down is his needs are pretty basic, they are not complex.” Barnidge said Jacob has many qualities he loves, including going straight to an encyclopedia when they visit the library to look up something he likes or giving complete dedication to a Cub Scout project he starts. “Probably the biggest enjoyment I have is when he engages adults and carries on a conversation,” he said. “I get to see him unfold. I get to see unfold in him parts of what I used to be as a child. Now that he is going to be 9, we are starting to make plans. We are going to start exercising. He is going to be my workout buddy.” Jacob has taught him a lot about life, Barnidge said. “The best way to get through life is to always look through a kid’s eyes,” he said. “Pull out your imagination like a child would and see what you can create.” Barnidge said he also always tries to keep what is important to Jacob important to him so he knows how Jacob feels about things. Barnidge said being a father later in life hasn’t really presented him with many obstacles, but he doesn’t like it when people think he is Jacob’s grandfather. “That reminds me when I’m 65 he is going to be 19,” Barnidge said. Barnidge said this inspires him to stay as active with his son as possible. Jacob said there are several things about his dad he likes. “That he’s a comedian,” Jacob said. “He doesn’t change me. He likes me the way I am.” Auburn resident Richard Gomez, the father of Jacob’s best friend, Benjamin, said Barnidge is very dedicated and when Gomez’s family experienced some tragedy, Barnidge was always there to offer support. Gomez said it is great to see Barnidge interact with Jacob. “I see him and his son always talking about history, whether it be the Civil War, the Constitution, you name it,” Gomez said. “You go into a library with those two and they are on the books, which is kind of neat because my son follows suit. (Dean) is just a well-rounded man. He’s very committed to his son.” Barnidge said he feels he will always be Jacob’s guide in life until he is ready to strike out on his own. And what advice does Barnidge have for new fathers? “You just flow with it, you embrace it, accept it,” he said. “Just know each tomorrow is going to be an adventure. Relax, but be prepared too because kids are going to give you a whole new schedule and wants list.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com