By Suzanne Fox, photography by John Hilton
At an age when their peers are talking grandfatherhood and the empty nester syndrome, many baby boomer dads are finding themselves starting new families in their golden years. Older new dads are not just an affectation of the Hollywood elite; late-in-life parenthood is also happening here on the Space Coast. Recent studies say that the birthrates among fathers over the age of 40 have increased 32 percent. And while there are always going to be disadvantages to older fatherhood, some of Melbourne’s midlife dads are embracing the joys of their atypical families.
For Frank Rivers, supervisor at API Technologies, being an older parent gives him a different perspective. The 55-year-old has two elementary school aged children, Gia and Luke. Frank was well into his forties when he started his family. “At this age, you have the advantage of being settled and able to offer your family a good home environment,” he said. “Now your life revolves around your kids, not the other way around.”
“Hey it’s not a big deal for me. Your children’s love? Theirs is a genuine unconditional love. Our kids are constantly surprising me with the information they share and remember. I think I’m a better parent now than I would have been in my twenties,” said the retired Army first sergeant.
Frank says he takes time to share his own life experiences with his children and enjoys an active role in their lives: from playing sports, going camping and swimming to studying astronomy and taking family vacations. With closely cropped, balding, grey hair and a salt and pepper colored mustache, it is not unusual for Frank to be mistaken for a grandfather when playing with his children at the park. He shrugs it off.
In the military, Frank spent much of his younger adult years overseas. Now working close to home, he has more quality time to spend with the family. “Being older, and maybe wiser, I see this as a good thing. Plus, my kids know all the words to the Beatles songs,” he said proudly.
Prime time fatherhood was not planned for Rick Goodson, who has two grown children Melissa, 30, and Jared, 26, from a previous marriage. But life sometimes hands you a gift in a small package. Rick and his wife, Rose, were delighted and surprised when they found out he was going to be a dad again at age 45. “I have more patience today than I did back when I was in my twenties,” he said. Rick spent 28 years in the aerospace industry working at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Now that he works for himself, he has more time to spend with his 9-year-old son Matt. He remodeled a house on a lake where his family enjoys fishing, boating and swimming. “I don’t take things for granted now; life is not just about me,” said the tall, silver headed and goateed dad. “You find your values shift when you’re a little older. Your kids, they only get one chance at a childhood. Being a dad again, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. We’ve got this precious little boy now and I’m tickled pink that we all get along,” he said. “The most important thing you have? Your family. That’s what makes the cycle of life complete.”
What does it mean to be a father 50 years older than your first born? For late blooming dad Scott Sevel, he doesn’t see the double generation gap, except when it comes to riding on roller coasters with his 8-year-old (which he won’t do anymore). Scott, who works for Oracle, coaches his son Zachary’s Little League baseball team and spends his free time at Cub Scout outings, riding bikes or cheering Zachary on at swim meets. “Fatherhood is an incredible joy, but a huge responsibility as well,” said the dad, who is now eligible for senior citizen’s discounts at the movies. “There was a time when I didn’t think it was in the cards for me to be a parent, but I am so lucky. My son is a terrific kid: smart and funny. He inspires me to be a better version of myself,” Scott said.