Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thank you for being here

It's Thanksgiving. I'm not about to say I'm thankful I don't have children. I'm not. I wish with all my heart I had children and grandchildren to spend the holidays with, especially because this will be my first Thanksgiving in 25 years without my husband Fred. He will spend the day like any other day at Timberwood Court Memory Care Center, a nursing home for Alzheimer's patients.

I feared I would be alone, but I have lost count of the number of people who have invited me to spend the day with them. I have a lot of good friends, and for that I am grateful. Perhaps this is a day to put away thoughts of who we don't have and appreciate the people we do have. Tomorrow, thank someone for being in your life.

I am also thankful for my dogs. I am glad that I still have both of them, even though Chico the fence-jumper keeps running away. So far, he always comes back. He and Annie are giant dogs who sit in my lap, lean against my legs, and lick my face when I cry.

I'm thankful for my house, my health and work that I love. I'm thankful for little things like poppyseed muffins and Red Zinger tea and big things like sunshine and having the ocean nearby.

I'm very thankful that someone else is cooking the turkey tomorrow.

If you're feeling particularly childless during the holidays, make a list of things you're thankful for. They can be as silly as pink shoestrings or as serious as a cancer scare survived. We could all make long lists of complaints, but this week, let's be grateful for the good stuff.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Words to Ponder

I'd like to share a couple quotes from the book 365 Reflections on Marriage, edited by Eva Shaw (1999, Adams Media Corp.).

"Making the decision to have a child—it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." Elizabeth Stone.

"Romance fails us and so do friendships, but the relationship of parent and child, less noisy than all others, remains indelible and indestructible, the strongest relationship on earth." Theodore Reik.

I find these very powerful statements. How do they make you feel when you read them?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I didn't give them grandchildren

My father has a soft spot for small children. When I called him after Halloween, he told me about a little girl he described as really cute with "a little skirt and blouse." I don't know what kind of costume that was, but that wasn't the point anyway. Unlike all the other kids who grabbed their candy and hurried to the next house, this child walked right past him into the living room and sat down. Dad, who doesn't laugh much, chuckled at the memory. She just made herself at home until her father forced to come out. However, that wasn't the end. She snuck into the house one more time. Dad thought that was the cutest thing. I teased that she wanted to become his new roommate.

It was a sweet story, but it brought home to me again how I could have made a visit from a little girl or boy a regular thing. If I had had children, I would never have moved to Oregon. I couldn't break up the family that way. Instead, I imagine I would have brought them to my parents' house often. Certainly I would have brought them over to show off their Halloween costumes. My mother and father would have loved it. Now I remember my niece, Susan, on my mother's lap. It was the most beautiful picture. I also remember my dad and grandpa taking my brother and my nephew William fishing. I can picture that line of Fagalde men lined up along the shore. Unfortunately my brother lives far away, so my folks didn't see his kids much when they were young, but they did have those moments.

By being this lone writer with no children, only dogs, I not only deprived my parents of the joy of grandparenting; I missed the pleasure of seeing my kids and their grandparents love each other.

For people who never wanted children and didn't feel that close to their parents, I suppose this is not an issue, but for me, it's one of many little hurts that will never completely go away.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Here we go again

I was sitting at dinner with three other women all talking about writing. Soon they were comparing numbers of children. One had four, one had three, one had two. I have dogs. In the context of the conversation, I felt lucky to have more time to write and freedom to travel. With my husband in a nursing home, I don't need to rush home anymore. But once again I felt left out of a very important part of life. I also felt it more important than ever to write about what it's like to be childless, especially in a situation where if I had chosen a different man, I could have been a mom. I have to live with that fact forever, and I have to live with those moments where I'm the only one without children.

On Halloween, I played piano for the 5:30 p.m. Mass. Attendance was light. It never occurred to me until someone mentioned it afterward that folks would be busy escorting their trick-or-treaters around the neighborhood. I have never had to costume a child and worry about whether he would be spiderman or a pirate or some critter I don't even know about because I'm not up on kid culture. After Mass, I went to a grownup party with grownup drinks and no kids, just dogs. Sometimes it feels as if children exist in an alternate universe.

Know what I mean?