Monday, April 19, 2010

On the eve of 40

Good Lord. 40 tomorrow - which seems wholly impossible since I was just 16 five minutes ago. I swear.

I've decided to start the celebration early. I'm finishing up a glass of baco noir (yeah, blogging whilst drinking) and enjoying the gentle wine-y buzz of a late afternoon tipple. Although I may have just swallowed a fruit fly. I don't care, but I might have.

And speaking of birthdays...

The thirties were, to be perfectly honest and rather blunt, one long and horrific bloodbath of a decade. Seriously, from 33 on. I'm glad to be rid of them. With the exception of marrying My Beloved, the 30s were the worst 10 years I've ever known. The 30s taught me that my body is thoroughly and completely inadequate - that it won't support life. The 30s brought me the greatest sorrow I have ever known, and with it the incurable and lifelong plague of endless guilt. And a crisis of confidence too. One that seems to leach into every area of my life.

The 30s were a bitch.

I became a mother, yes. And I am endlessly grateful for ever single second I had with Thomas. And I would do it all again for each one of those blissful moments.

But I am not the mother I intended to be. Let's not kid ourselves. This is not how it was supposed to be. This is not how it should have turned out, dammit.

Last night I got thinking about what it might be like if I find myself in my dad's situation one day: 80, hospitalized, desperately sick.

In the first few weeks of his illness, I kept saying how glad I was that our children would never worry the way I have - that they'd never find themselves lying prone on the floor, sobbing at the thought of me weak and confused in a hospital bed.

Because, of course, all our children are dead.

And still, I was comforted by the fact that they would be spared this anguish. 

I know all the flaws in this logic. I do. Yeah sure, I won't be worrying my kids when I'm old and frail, but I also won't have had the benefit of all that extra love in my life. The extra life in my life.

Every time I go into the hospital I take my dad a coffee and a newspaper. Simple pleasures he can now, finally, enjoy. And I get him a fresh cup of ice water, clean up his room a bit and ask if there's anything else I can do. Anything else I can bring. Any other way I can make him more comfortable.

Last night it dawned on me that there will be no one who cares enough about me to do this when I'm old. We have nieces and nephews, of course, but they have parents. They are not obligated to act as surrogate children when we're old, and I would never expect them to.

And so I'm quietly tortured by the notion that I'm going to be all alone one day and no one will come to see me. No one will be there to get me a fresh drink or find me a warmer blanket or stroke my arm and tell me how much they love me.

This is what it means to have no children.


I realize people don't procreate in order to supply themselves with a nursing staff for later in life. But it's certainly one of the fringe benefits of growing people who love you - who would do anything for you, like I would do for my mom and dad. They will always love you, your children. They will always be there for you. Unless they're not. Unless they're dead.

So, friends, this is what the 30s brought me: fodder for my midlife crisis. Fueled by baco noir.


Happy birthday to me.


loribeth said...

Happy birthday!! I have sort of being feeling the same way about my 40s. 50 is staring me in the face & I'm hoping to leave the angst of my 40s behind & make a fresh start, find some great things to do with the rest of my life.

Growing old without children is something that gives me pause. Like you, I hope our two nephews will look in on us now & then when we get old & grey, but I know I can't expect them to act as my own child would.

That said -- there are lots of hospitals & nursing homes chock full of seniors whose kids never or rarely visit, whether by choice or because they live too far away to do it regularly. My sister currently lives an hour's drive from my parents -- I'm a two hour flight plus drive -- & she regularly tells me that she is moving to Africa to raise baby elephants so that dealing with Mom & Dad's aging will be MY problem/responsibility as the "closest" daughter. :p

Marcia said...

I began following your blog a few weeks ago. I can't remember now what brought me here. But I wish you many happy returns on your birthday, and the evening before.

Although I cannot understand, I want you to know that I do care.

PS, do you write for a living? because I think you should.

justine said...

I'm sorry that you are feeling so lonely. Though what Loribeth says is true, it doesn't make it any easier to logic away what it feels like to not have children.

I hope that 40 can also bring you hope, and the ability to relate to yourself and your body in a new way. We will be thinking about you.

Rosepetal said...

I hope your 40s are the start of a new era for you my friend. Happy Birthday. P.S. I sent you a card but maybe airmail was already destroyed by the volcano..... You'll probably get it three years from now or something.

Kendra's mom said...

Happy birthday. I hope you have a nice day and sorry you are feeling so down now.

Pipsylou said...

LOVE the label for this post.

"And so I'm quietly tortured by the notion that I'm going to be all alone one day and no one will come to see me. No one will be there to get me a fresh drink or find me a warmer blanket or stroke my arm and tell me how much they love me."

Having children does not guarantee that you will have someone to care for you when you're old. In fact, I think it's the "investing in others' lives" that causes people to care about care FOR you. It's really such a misnomer that one's children will be there to care for them when they're old.

Listen to what loribeth said...SO true. I know plenty of older people with a quiverfull of kids who NEVER come to see them, let alone take care of them.

Catherine said...

I think you're doing good...midlife crisis and all.

I'm beginning to wonder what my midlife crisis should look like.