June 26, 2006

It Stays With You

My husband and I were invited to join friends at their cottage last weekend. Their kids are mature and responsible teenagers (not an oxymoron) who had independent plans of their own, so we had a couple's weekend.

If you are from Canada, or know anyone from the province of Ontario in particular, you know that Cottage Country is a big deal. Out in these parts they have trees and water in abundance. Cottages can be simple -- or second homes for the wealthy. The pontoon boat is optional.

"...our hostess said they have an uncle who is childfree. She said he is in poor health now and all alone."
We cooked great food, stayed up late talking, swam and cruised around their picturesque lake and hooked lots of fish from a paddle boat. Heck, my husband even got a pull from a neighbor and re-lived his water-skiing glory years.

Our friends know we are a childfree couple. They know about my project, Purple WomenTM. We danced around the subject when our hostess said they have an uncle who is childfree. She said he is in poor health now and all alone.

I will remember catching the biggest bass of the weekend, and the mosquito bites still linger, but her words will stay with me longer.

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VictoriaM said...

He could just as easily had children and been all alone. Besides, how can she know for sure? Most childed people don't see the importance of friends so dismiss what they don't see. Her uncle could very well have his own extended "family" of friends for support. This is one of challenges and blessings of being childfree, the opportunity to build our own network of friends who become our "family". Now there's something to stay with you!

Tiara Lynn said...

It's unfortunate that her uncle is alone in this time, but that's more of a testament to their family than anything else. If he had children, who's to say he still wouldn't be all alone? And where is she, or the rest of her family, in making her uncle feel loved during this time?

Often I see parents making the mistake of thinking family ends with mommy, daddy and baby, and maybe grandma and grandpa in the mix. Family is so much more than that.

My husband and I fortunate that several of our best friends are also childfree, and they have become almost closer than family. I'm also very close with my seven-year-old niece, and I like to imagine her being a big part of my life even as I age.

It's very sad, what's happening to your friend's uncle, but we all know having children would likely not have kept him healthier, certainly wouldn't have kept him from getting older and there's no guarantee he'd not be left alone. It's too bad no one in his family is stepping up to help him.

And, I figure, if I end up alone in my old age, I'll know that because of the choices I made that I've lived my life to the absolute fullest with no regrets. I've been blessed with so much love in my life in so many ways, I'm not concerned about lacking it in the future.

Teri said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Teri said...

(Ug -- just had to get the typos out of the first attempted comment!)

VictoriaM - "Most childed people don't see the importance of friends so dismiss what they don't see."

My grandmother would be an example of this. She outlived all her friends to a ripe age of 97, but well before then I had noticed that she never invested any time in maintaining friendships. She lived only through her family, with hardly any room for anyone else. Perhaps that's why she had a hard time accepting my situation. It must have been hard for her to imagine. I know she worried for me.

She was the eldest of 10, so she came to mothering early in life and she had three of her own. Her memoir book rightly says that she also had a hand in mothering her great-grandchildren. Including my generation, that's four generations of family!

Tiara Lynn - The same thought ran through my head about the "testament to their family". I thought it safer not to go there in conversation. Silence is often a refuge of the childfree. I did not want to be on the defensive and I couldn't think of anything to say in the moment.

I agree that the term "family" should be applied more generously to include friends who are like family and step/blended families, and families of two (regardless of gender).

Thank you both for sharing. I appreciate your wisdom on the matter. Perhaps next time I'll be better prepared. What I do appreciate is that my friend was comfortable enough to broach the topic with me as we sat there on her dock. I was too timid to jump off the deep end!

NikkiJ said...

Sometimes the way some people behave when they're young and able, it's sometimes no wonder they are alone. They drive everyone away by their cantankerous attitude and then wonder why people keep their distance. Who knows? They probably wouldn't admit it.

Some people want friends, but they don't know how to BE a friend.Some treat the very people who could and would have befriended them badly.

Some people also drive away members of their family by the way they treat them... and then wonder why they are alone.

NikkiJ said...

Sad that the only association your hostess had with a childfree person (or at least remembered) was one that was depressing negative and one that no-one would want to emulate! In her mind I suppose childfree = alone. Her uncle could so easily have had children and with the same outcome.

Boxing Tomboy said...

A former co-worker of mine remarked of an aunt of hers who had never married or had children: "She's just--alone." I have an aunt in the same situation, but at 80 years old, she's just as lively as can be. She has her surviving siblings, numerous nieces and nephews, and a strong circle of friends. Lonely and isolated? Not hardly. I look up to her as an example of thriving as a childfree person in one's senior years.