Saturday 1 October 2016

Neil Lyndon: 'Becoming a dad again in my fifties is a dream come true'

Neil Lyndon has no regrets about being an older parent - was Gary Lineker wrong to spurn fatherhood again at 55?

Neil Lyndon

Published 17/01/2016 | 02:30

Gary and Danielle Lineker, who have filed for divorce, because the 36-year-old model reportedly wants another child and he feels too old. Photo: Ian West/PA Wire
Gary and Danielle Lineker, who have filed for divorce, because the 36-year-old model reportedly wants another child and he feels too old. Photo: Ian West/PA Wire

I was sorry to read that Gary Lineker and Danielle Bux, his wife of eight years, are divorcing because the 36-year-old model reportedly wants another child and he feels too old. I was sorry not least because I have found that starting a new family in my fifties and bringing up two little girls in my sixties has been the most rewarding and happiest time of my life.

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Of course, that doesn't mean it would work for Lineker. By the same token, just because Ronnie Wood feels capable of being a new father at 68 doesn't mean Bryan Ferry's divorce, in 2014, from his second wife who was 37 years his junior - reportedly over his reluctance to start another family - was mistaken.

Other people's marriages are always impenetrable but it's not hard to see the sense in Lineker's decision. He has four grown-up sons from a first marriage. Four is probably enough for any man who isn't a benefits scrounger.

Lineker is now at the zenith of his broadcasting career - a superb, deft, endearing presenter in constant demand on BBC and BT Sport. Why would he complicate that demanding work schedule -which probably earns him as much as any top footballer - with the demands of bringing up little children? His position is not the same as other late-life fathers likes John Simpson and John Humphrys, who say they have been better parents, with more time to devote to their new children, than they were in their earlier lives.

Edging towards his bus pass at 55, Gary has reached the outer edges of reasonable expectations as a father.

If Danielle had his baby now, he would be in his mid-seventies by the time their child left university. Lineker must fear not being around to witness the graduation ceremony, as testified by the melancholy death, at 69, of David Bowie, who leaves behind a 15-year-old daughter. Nobody - not even a super-fit ex-footballer and near-scratch golfer - can count on good health into old age. Danielle, who has a 14-year-old daughter, is now in her mid-thirties. If she is to have another child, she needs to get on with it.

However, they are going their separate ways at exactly the same age as my wife and I when we decided, 14 years ago, to go in the opposite direction and try for a baby.

When we met, she was childless and 34. I was 53, father and stepfather of two boys in their late teens. It was obvious from the start that ours was going to be a serious relationship, and I knew the question of children would come up.

I was certain that I didn't want to be a father again - but I also recognised that, if I demurred, she would probably look for another man. Could I face that loss?

We talked about starting a family many times over the following 18 months and we agreed that seeing our child through to graduation was the most I could reasonably expect; anything thereafter could only be a bonus.

I got my health checked out from head to toe and we decided to give it a go in February 2002.

Our first daughter - a pillar-box of a baby at 10lb 11/2 oz - was born in December 2002. Our second - a delicate wisp of humanity who had to spend her first days in intensive care - arrived in August 2005. If I am ever to see them graduate, we are nearing the half-way point. Every day is precious.

I didn't mind when strangers assumed that I was their grandfather. "Isn't it wonderful that you can give them back at the end of the day?" said a couple my age once, as they watched me strap the girls into their car seats when they were little.

Their teachers have now got over their surprise that such an old man can be chiefly responsible for the youngsters' care (my wife works full-time in a demanding job).

Despite a long, chequered and colourful marital and sexual life, this is the first time I have known the security of a stable marriage and a happy family.

My children give me reason to live. In return, my leading ambition is to give them good memories.

It may be perfectly understandable that Gary Lineker has other priorities. But it is sad to think he'll never know what he's missing.

© Daily Telegraph

Sunday Independent

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