Aging is a dirty trick in that behavioral changes occur without one’s intent or permission. For example, “sleeping in” now means I’m not at the coffee shop when the doors swing open at 6:30 AM.

Staying up late means I catch the last inning of the baseball game on TV — unless there was a significant rain delay or some “free baseball” (as the late Skip Carey called extra innings) stretching things out too far. Then I just check the score early the next morning.

As a teen and young adult, staying up late was routine. That’s when all the real fun happened, we convinced ourselves.

My dad, however, had this assessment: “The only people out past midnight are hoodlums.”

He could have paid my college tuition with ease if he’d tossed in a dollar every time he made that proclamation to me or one of my brothers.

Dad’s words resurface on occasion. Such as this morning when I read in the local news where a gunman tried to rob a woman sitting in her car “just after midnight” last night. She should have gone home earlier before hoodlums come out.

Though my own young-fool mischief was mild (no details, Dale Newman, we have a pact) by hoodlum standards, getting in by midnight rarely occurred on weekends. Turning off my headlights before reaching our home and tiptoeing in worked most nights.

“What time did you get in last night?” Dad would ask the next day.

“I think it was a little before midnight,” I’d respond, missing the truth by nearly two hours.

But somehow his words continue to ring in my ears. Even recently, I returned from an out-of-town speaking engagement and pulled into my garage at 11:54 PM.

Looking at the clock in my dashboard, there was a feeling of accomplishment — that I had come in under the hoodlum deadline by six whole minutes.

There is something about the teen and young adult years that calls for late nights. But it sure does fade decades later.

Now with one teen and another approaching, there will be a great clock challenge just ahead. But they need to know: I’ve changed my mind; Dad was right.

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