Sunday, August 18, 2013

Father Time

George Lucas, who has spent much of his professional career in a galaxy far, far away, and his wife Mellody Hobson recently welcomed a new baby daughter to planet Earth.

Lucas, 69, is the famed film producer, screenwriter and director who brought us the “Star Wars” franchise.
He is also well known for….

Wait just a minute, stop the presses.  Lucas is how old?   69?   Who becomes a father at that age?

Well, quite a few people as it turns out.  Actor Steve Martin became a father at 67.  Charlie Chaplin  had a son at age 73.  Robert DeNiro was 68, Clint Eastwood 66, as were Larry King and Nick Nolte when they became dads.  Rupert Murdoch’s youngest was born when he was 72.  Saul Bellow joined the club when he was 84.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, an Aussie named Les Colley had his ninth child, a son named Oswald, with his third wife at the age of 92 years. 

Colley met his child’s mother through a dating agency at the age of 90. "I never thought she would get pregnant so easy, but she bloody well did," he told newspaper reporters.

Not on that list:   Me.

Look, I love kids.  I spent a great portion of my life engaged as a dad and the myriad chores that come with the job:  coach, teacher, assembler and repairer of toys, disposer of creepy insects, dispenser of advice, chauffeur, automatic teller machine.

It was a great experience.   But it was also one that required a great deal of energy, which is fading a bit as I push on through the years.  At this stage of my life, my real concern would be that if I can’t remember where I put my keys, how am I going to remember where I put the kids?

Nowadays, I get tired just watching young parents packing 50 pounds of gear to take a child a couple of miles across town.   Or endlessly chasing after toddlers while in a perpetual stooped position.   Or trying to maintain order when taking a gaggle of kids to a park or a ballgame or a restaurant.

I did all those things.   But would I want to do it again now?  Nope, I’ve got those “Diaper Changing,  Sleep Depriving, T-ball Coaching,  Piano Recital Attending, Don’t Make Me Come Back There” Blues.

George Lucas apparently sees thing differently.  He’s no rookie.  He’s already got three kids so he should know what he’s getting into.  But next time Father’s Day rolls around, he’ll be 70.  

Of course, there is a difference between Mr. Lucas and me.  He has a net worth of some $7 billion, for instance.

That means he can have an entire wing of pediatric nurses and doctors to tend his child.   And as my youngest daughter pointed out, “if we wants her to learn how to play baseball, he can hire A-Rod.” 

Music lessons?   Bring in Yo Yo Ma.   Baking chocolate chip cookies?  Have Martha Stewart on speed dial.  Tutoring?  Hire a Nobel Laureate.  Need a baby sitter?  Order up a child psychologist.

There are drawbacks in being an aged dad.   You might have to take a Celebrex before pushing your kid on a swing.   You and your child might end up drooling on one another.  It’s hard to play kick the can when you’re in danger of kicking the bucket.

Which bring us to this uncomfortable point:

Life expectancy for an American male currently stands at 76.   You might live longer.  You might not.   Any way you look at it, by fathering a child at this late age you run the risk of traumatizing your young offspring if you should pass.

You’d be very lucky to seem them graduate from high school.   It would be miraculous if you saw them complete college. Grandchildren?   Forget it.

Worse, scientists have pinpointed a likely source for many cases of autism and schizophrenia: Men who become fathers later in life pass on more brand-new genetic mutations to their offspring, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times.

The finding buttresses observations from population studies that rates of these disorders are more prevalent in children born to older fathers, sometimes by a factor of two or more, experts said.

I wish Mr. Lucas well.  The task ahead is not for the frail or fainthearted.  I hope he is around long enough to imbue in his daughter the creative genius, energy and world view that he possesses.  We need more people like that.

As for me, I love my wife and kids and I’m glad they’re in my life.  But if I want someone new to fuss over, I’ll get a Golden Retriever.  

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