It has now been almost a year and a half since I embarked on what I think of as “late-onset fatherhood.” Becoming a first-time parent this late-I’m forty-eight, and my wife Molly is nine years younger-can be daunting. I’ve got a bad knee, I’ve got dental nightmares, acid reflux, and the list of favorite foods I can’t eat anymore. Not to mention the cute little convertible I sold because it lacked a place for an infant seat.
Belated fatherhood also means welcoming a new life into your midst, even as illness and death are besetting your parents, in-laws, and old family friends. In June 2006, when our daughter Larkin was five months old, we scattered the ashes of Molly’s brother who died of lung cancer. My mother, meanwhile, was in the last stages of the same dreadful disease. Back when I was a kid, she played cards in a bridge club with three of her best friends, all heavy smokers who went on to die of cancer. My mother quit smoking in 1990, and we had hoped there would be a statute of limitations.
But cancer, alas, is not ruled by decree. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, I myself then got some bad news: a mole on my lower back turned out to be a melanoma. A two-and-a-half-hour surgery took a big chunk out of my back, plus lymph nodes north and south. The doctors biopsied the nodes, they scanned me everywhere, and thankfully found nothing. I’m still here.