What madness possesses pensioner in his 70s to start a second family when all his other children are full adults? Christopher, a fairly successful publisher was in his early 70s when he met his third wife, Clair who was then in her late 30s. By the time he was 76, they’d gone ahead to have two lovely children—a boy and a girl. According to Chris, “Besides the occasional blip, raising a child, no matter your age, is a huge pleasure. Feeding a baby its bottle is one of the great joys of life for a father, and one of the few things one ever does that is unquestionably useful.
“Only, when you are in your 70s, levering yourself out of a deep settee afterwards and transferring the baby to its cot without waking it is quite a physical achievement. There’ve been many moments I have shared with my young children which never fail to bring a smile to my face—mainly because I never dreamt I would be experiencing such moments at this age, despite the fact that I have four grown up children and six grandchildren.
“A few months back, one of my grandchildren had her fifth birthday at a restaurant and a number of us went. At a few tables away, an ugly looking woman who was with her children stopped by on her way to the bathroom, and wanted to know more about this lively family. I told her proudly: ‘This in my son, Daniel—he is 45, and this is my son Bob, he is two.
“The inquisitive smile on her face faded as she went away, a disapproving look on her face. We all laughed. As a matter of fact, the gap between my oldest and youngest daughters is even bigger—49 years!
“Thankfully, the older children are very happy about the new arrivals and couldn’t wait to see them. The eldest of my six grandchildren, who is 14, sent his new-born uncle, Bob a note welcoming him to the family. The biggest drawback with a baby at this age however, is the freedom it steals. The new arrival needs constant attention. Whereas before I could write if I feel like it, drop by at the office or read a book before watching a bit of sport on TV, there is now a prior, and sometimes rather insistent call on my time. Even though you have been through it before, there are always anxieties with tiny babies. Before Bob was born, we were warned he might not survive due to medical condition suffered by my young wife. When he arrived fit and healthy via Caesarean, the doctors had to give my wife a lot of pain relief for several hours during which time her mother, who was younger than me of course, and I were left taking turns holding the baby.
“Thankfully, both our babies emerged none the worse for their respective ordeals. There had always been a nagging doubt in our minds that given our ages, there was a risk of abnormality, but both our children are strong and beautiful. And along with the inevitable anxieties, there are many small pleasures of late-life parenthood—the warming smile of recognition in the morning, that look of unconditional love, the noisy ecstasies of splash-time in the bath assisted by the house-helps—and the heart-bursting pride as the baby takes its first steps.
However, the sheer physical effort of coping with children at my age can be demanding. So much so that I have to take a brisk daily walk and use an exercise bike and some modest weights to revive my shrinking muscles. After all, toddlers can be heavy and buggies even heavier! There’s also a sadder side to having tiny children at my age, in that I won’t live to see them as adults, maybe not even in their teens. I also have to face the fact that they may hardly remember me at all in later life. For them, too, there is the inevitable trauma of losing a parent while they are young.
“But some children lose their parents any way. I have known two fathers who died at 51, one of them before seeing his child. To say that I should not have had children at my age would have left my wife childless, for she has not been married before nor had any previous children. That is a big call for anyone to make about other people’s lives. I have to admit that it can be a strange and unsettling experience being so old a new father, especially when both children look a lot like me! You can’t help thinking:’In my end is my beginning.’
“Whatever happens, one can only hope that these late-comers will get as much fun out of life as their old man.”