In a candid interview, the entertainment guru tells about the inspirational son who changed his life forever.
Richard Wilkins will never forget the swirl of emotions as he held his child — a beautiful baby boy named Adam — in his arms for the first time. As he looked down at the tiny newborn, Richard — then barely more than a boy himself at just 18 — had an inkling that something wasn’t quite right. Soon after, Richard’s fears were confirmed by doctors. Adam had Down syndrome.
For the young man who went on to become one of our most enduring showbusiness personalities, time stood still. Life, Richard realised in that moment of clarity, would simply never be the same again. "I got lucky for the first time on my 18th birthday and, nine months later, became a father," he says now. "Between all that, I married Lynette, the 16-year-old girl that I didn’t know very well, who was Adam’s mum. I thought I was doing the right thing at the time. So, at 18, I had a new wife and a Down syndrome son. It was quite a wake-up call. I call Adam my rock as he forced me to grow up all of a sudden and take stock of the situation."
That was back in 1973 in the New Zealand city of Palmerston North, where Richard had recently completed high school. "Back in those days, hubbies weren’t exactly encouraged to be in the delivery room cutting umbilical cords. But when I first saw Adam, I just instinctively knew," he said. "I guess it hits you pretty hard — with a thud, actually. I remember having a lot of tests done on me to see what I’d done wrong. I almost wanted to believe that there was something wrong with me — something that I’d passed on. But the tests all came back clear as a bell."
Talking about Adam, Richard’s face lights up, his voice full of pride. It's clear that Adam has brought the Today show’s entertainment editor — now a devoted father of five who lives happily with fiancée Rebecca Naso, who also has two children, Sophie and Zane — immeasurable joy over the past four decades. "I don’t know what I would have done if I had known in advance that Adam was Down syndrome," Richard says softly. "Well, I probably do know what we would have done and that would have been a dreadful mistake. Blessings come in unlikely packages and he is such a joy.
Read more about Richard and his family life in this week's Woman’s Day on sale Monday June 25, 2012.