The Oldie

Ask Virginia Ironside


Bringing up baby

QI’m 65 and have four grown-up children. I now have a girlfriend of 45. We have been together for two years and we love each other very much. I feel extremely fortunate. However, she is desperate to have a baby. She has no children. What do you think I should do? I feel I will be far too old when the child grows up but she says it doesn’t matter and it’s her last chance. Name and address supplied A It’s so easy to be objective and so difficult when you’re in love or broody. However, as someone not involved, I’m going to put all the arguments against. You’ll be in your eighties when the child is in his or her twenties – not an age anyone wants to be lumbered with an ailing parent. Also, in the intervenin­g years, you’ll at times be exhausted by bringing up another child. Your other children will probably, however polite they may appear, be horrified at the idea of a half-sibling arriving on the scene. As you grow older, your girlfriend may well find it too difficult to look after both you and the child at the same time and there’s a strong chance of your splitting up. Finally, what about this poor baby? You don’t really even want it. I suspect your girlfriend will get pregnant whatever you say, and you will probably love the child and who knows – it all might be ticketyboo. But the chances are not high.

A fall does bring you down

QI’m 70 and, until recently, I’ve been fit as a fiddle. But late last year, I fell on the pavement, hitting my head and cutting my knee – with no major problems otherwise. At

the time, I found it very distressin­g but was immediatel­y hauled to my feet by kindly passers-by, who gave me a lift home. Now, months later, although I’m better, I’m still suffering from depression, and often feel anxious going out. Everyone says I should have got over it but although I try to put on a brave face, when I’m at home I often cry. I’ve just not been the same since.

A G, Haslemere First, a bit of advice to anyone who falls over: unless it’s in the middle of a busy road, don’t let anyone haul you up too quickly. Stay in the position you fell in and slowly gather your thoughts, coming to terms with the situation. Only when you feel ready, should you think of getting up. Secondly, it may be that you suffered a very minor brain injury when bumping your head. It’s extremely common. It would be worth getting referred to a neurologis­t to see what they think. And finally, falling over at our age is traumatic. It’s not surprising you still feel weird. After a certain age, a fall suddenly makes you realise your own frailty and mortality.

I know it’s been a long time since you had the fall but for the next few months treat yourself gently, and don’t try to pretend things aren’t wrong. They are. Eventually, though, they’ll get better. You won’t be back to square one but, if you get help, you can regain 90 per cent of your confidence, I’m certain.

A ‘good enough’ marriage

QWe’ve been married for eight years and have a five-year-old son but I’ve fallen out of love with my wife and I think she has with me. We rub along but the old spark just isn’t there any more. We never have sex and we’ve both had short relationsh­ips with other people. There seems to be nothing to keep us together but our son. I’m feeling really depressed, imagining the rest of our lives stretching out like this. Separation seems so drastic – and expensive! – but is this it?

D G, Oxford A There surely isn’t a single marriage anywhere that hasn’t gone through a patch like the one you’re describing. The trick is not just to get through it, but to learn from it. I suggest you both read this most extraordin­ary book – part novel, part analysis of a relationsh­ip – which charts the course of a marriage through the years: The Course of Love by Alain de Botton. He describes with pinpoint accuracy all the feelings of being in love, and then how it fades until, in the end, his conclusion is ‘One person can’t be everything to another. We should look for ways to accommodat­e ourselves as gently and as kindly as we can to the awkward realities of living alongside another fallen creature. There can only ever be a “good enough” marriage… Everyone really is a bit wrong when considered from close up.’

Please email me your problems at problempag­ – I will answer every email that comes in; and let me know if you would like your dilemma to be confidenti­al.

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