Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Longing for the Sleeping Child

As darkness descends over Highway 20 on my way home from Albany, it's pretty, with soft gray and medium gray sky, gray-green trees and shrubs, people heading home in their cars. Annie is curled up sleeping in the back.

A warmth rushes through me. I have had this feeling before with a sleeping dog. I think how sweet it would have been to have a child like that. They would have been more energetic earlier, but how wonderful it would be to have them sleeping beside me now.

I could have watched them grow from babies to children to adolescents to teenagers to adults, watching the changes, watching them learn, teaching them everything I know about life. Finally they would be companions and helpers in my old age. They could carry on family traditions, keep the photo albums, take my name and my genes into the future.

All it takes is a sleeping dog to make me feel the pain of childlessness again. I missed something so huge, so vital. It's like four part harmony was offered for the song of my life and I only played the alto and bass, with no melody.

It just kills me. I feel like I have to do something about it. I know there's nothing I can do. It's too late, but I can't accept it. I wish this were a sleeping child in my back seat right now. My children would be adults, but my grandchildren could be riding with me through this gorgeous night. Instead, I reach back and pet Annie's soft gold fur. Her tail flaps, and I see her eyes glowing at me in the dark. Thank God for dogs.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Do you give your pets Christmas presents?

I'm back from my eye surgery. I still can't see as well as desired, but I will soon. All hell is breaking loose with my husband in the nursing home, but hey, it's Christmas and my best friend is close at hand.

Her name is Annie. Technically, she's a dog, but I think both of us forget that fact most of the time. Because she is my best friend, housemate and pseudo-child, I'm wondering if I should get her something besides another box of Milkbones for Christmas.

I don't usually buy gifts for my dog. She chews up every squeaky toy, panics if I put anything kind of decoration on her, and already eats too much. Plus, she doesn't know or care about Christmas--although she did eat the plastic hand off a snowman yesterday. Her favorite thing in the world is snuggling in my lap (all 74 pounds of her). All she wants for Christmas is for me to sit down for a few minutes--or share that great-smelling box of Portuguese sausage my aunt sent me.

However, I'm in the minority. Surveys by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association show that 63 percent of pet owners give their pets Christmas and birthday gifts. After all, they're members of the family.

How about you? Are you giving your cats and dogs toys, treats or new clothes this Christmas? Do you think it's crazy or makes sense because they're your babies?

What about your parents? Do they give your pets presents in lieu of gifts for grandchildren?

Do you sign your pets' names on your Christmas cards?

I'd love to hear what you think about this.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Let's all celebrate what we DO have and not worry about what we DON'T have.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What's it like to be childless during the holidays?

Hi there. I'm double-posting today because I'm having eye surgery tomorrow and don't know how soon I'll be back online. With luck, it will be next week, but just in case . . .

Let's talk about Christmas--or Chanukah, which began yesterday. Do you feel left out at this time of year because you don't have children to exchange gifts or celebrate with? What about stepchildren? Do they fill the gap? Do you spend the holidays together or apart? Do you exchange gifts? Or do the stepchildren disappear because your spouse doesn't have custody during the holidays?

Do you skip the whole thing by heading to a sunny resort somewhere?

What's the holiday story at your house?

Do I have children?

I got to the space on the Who's Who form where it asked for the names of my sons and daughters and decided to come back to it another day.
At the furniture store where we bought a new mattress, we told the lefthanded salesperson that we were both left-handed, too, and she innocently asked if we had any children. "No," I replied, then looked at my husband said, "Well, he does."
Last Mother's Day, I told anyone who asked that I was not a mother. Period.
What happened to my stock answer of "I have three stepchildren?" For years, that's what I said, that's what I wrote on forms, that's what I put on those pesky high-school reunion questionnaires, that's what I wound up telling Who's Who.
It was a good answer. It acknowledged my husband's sons and daughter while conveying that I have not actually given birth. People would know that yes, there were children in my life, even if they weren't mine. I could go on to discuss being a Boy Scout mom, dealing with teenage attitudes, planning a daughter's wedding or welcoming grandchildren into the family. Just don't ask me about birth, colic or potty training because I don't know.
But that was years ago. The kids are grown. My stepdaughter has a granddaughter now, and I may never see that child outside of Facebook.
It's partially our fault because we moved away to Oregon--something I would never have agreed to do if I had children of my own back in California.
The step between me and my stepchildren became a chasm when my husband came down with Alzheimer's Disease and moved to a nursing home. He doesn't always remember that he has children. And now, when people ask, I just say no. It's easier. I still care about them and hope they care about me, but the only thing we have in common these days is our last name.
My, this is a gloomy post, isn't it? It's really okay. It's just a fact. What about you? When people ask if you have children, do you count stepchilden or other non-biological children in your life or just say "no."