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For these dads, this life began AFTER 40

June 16, 2007|By DON AINES

Ed Lough pretty much assumed he never would be a dad.

When he first reached adulthood, "I really didn't think about being a dad ... but I knew I didn't want to be when I was that age." There was an education to earn and a career to build.

And as the years went by, "I got to a point where I thought it just wasn't meant to be," he said.

"Then, boom.

"Isn't that the way it always is?"

Lough was 52 when his son, Eddie, now 4 1/2, was born.

And after decades without children, he also had taken on responsibility for two stepdaughters - Christine Barnes, now 16, and Renee Barnes, now 12.

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He might have contemplated fatherhood a little earlier "if I knew it would be this completing and this satisfying," he says now. "But then, everything happens at the time it's supposed to."

Lough, a Hagerstown businessman, is one of a growing number of men fathering children after the age of 40. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, the number of live births per 1,000 men ages 40 and older steadily has increased since 1980 - while the number of live births per 1,000 men in their 20s dramatically dropped.

Was taking on fatherhood later in life scary?

"Perhaps a little," Lough said. "But I knew what the responsibility was. I'm much more able to accept it and want to be involved than I would have been when I was younger ... I'm much more qualified and patient.

"... There's no doubt in my mind that I have the capability of doing a much better job today than 20 years ago."

There might be one small drawback.

Eddie "wears me out - he's a ball of energy," Lough said. "He exemplifies that old saying that 'youth is wasted on the young.'"

Becoming a father is a major life change at any age. But Lough and his family are embarking on a journey that many of his contemporaries already have traveled.

"A lot of my friends are talking about retiring," Lough said. "I will work certainly beyond age 65."

One of the biggest changes fatherhood has brought, he said, is "it's not all about me anymore. It's all about the kids. You can't just pick up and go. When you've got kids, you have to make that switch."

The reward is that "when you walk in the door at the end of the day, no matter what kind of day you had, you get that big smile and, 'Hi Daddy!' - and whatever it was, it's gone."

A father - in triplicate

Doug Rubeck said he always wanted a family. But he divorced young, and afterward, looked a long time before he found "the one."

When he found her, they talked about having a family - although she already had three grown children.

"But she said she wouldn't mind, so we decided to get married and have a family," he said.

So at 47, Rubeck became a father for the first time - and in triplicate.

When the doctor told him they were expecting three babies rather than one, "I was speechless," Rubeck said. "I just stood there and did nothing. The doctor asked me if I was all right."

Once the babies arrived, the hardest adjustment was that "I couldn't go do what I wanted to do. I had responsibility for the family." The first year, Rubeck and his wife didn't go out at all, he said.

"We didn't even go out to eat because we didn't have time - or we were too tired," he said. "There were a lot of sleepless nights."

The Rubeck triplets - Britney Nicole, Douglas Eugene Jr., and Coby Leon - now are 5 and very active.

"I definitely run out of speed," Rubeck said. "It's tiresome ... it's hard to watch three at a time; they go in different directions.

"Sometimes I feel too old. But we have fun."

Worries and concerns

Both dads said they have thought about the possible consequences of being so much older than their children.

"I'll be lucky to see grandchildren," Lough said. And it's possible, he conceded, that his son could spend some of his childhood without a father.

"That thought has been there, but it's not a worry or concern," he said. "My family on both sides lived to be old. There's good genes on both sides."

"I thought about that," Rubeck said. "But I'd also seen where grandparents raised kids, and I'd also seen tragedies hit younger families," leaving the children with single parents.

"I get tired. But my wife is great - she does a lot," Rubeck said. "She's the one who holds the family together."

Both said anyone contemplating a family later in life should consider the changes children will bring to their lives.

And then, "if that's really what you want and you know what you want, I'd say do it," Rubeck said. "I'd do it again."

"You need to have the ability to listen," Lough said. "I can exert better patience now, and actually engage in conversations, even with the 4-year-old. I enjoy watching them grow and change, and develop their personalities and their interests ... sometimes I leave the room and chuckle because I'm thinking, 'I know what you're gonna say before you say it.'"

Thankful for what he's got

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