I now live in a Senior Community and the positive side of that location in life is there is a growing number of single women and they tend to congregate and socialize. The down side of living in this type of community is that a growing number of people have to kiss their mates good-bye and then learn to deal with life after they have lost, in most cases, their lifetime partner.
For the sake of discussion in this blog, I’m going to separate our country-wide population into three basic generations: The Seniors, The Middles, The Younger Ones. Now I remember when I was one of The Younger Ones and was chasing an errant child around with a dirty diaper, trying to corral her so
that I could get her cleaned up. I was frustrated, irritated, and angry for I was doing something to make her life better. And I can remember thinking, when will this be over?? When will they act like rational human beings? (I’m not sure we have ever answered that question.)
While those thoughts were running through my head as I was chasing this imp, it never occurred to me to be thinking about the fact that someday this child was going
to be an adult and perhaps in charge of taking care of me? If I was a cruel parent, a thoughtless parent, or a parent that was too busy, I wasn’t creating meaningful relationships with this child. There is something to be said for the expression: “Be nice to your children; they pick your nursing home.” I watch women in my community that have no family near them or if they do, these offspring don’t choose to come and visit. Life goes on for these Younger Ones even though they have lost a parent, but the “life” of the existing parent, in many senses, has come to an end.
After we are the Younger Ones, we become The Middles and now our children are looking at schools beyond high school and we are making suggestions, sharing our opinions, and they are struggling with who they want to become and which schools will give
them those experiences and the education to take them to their chosen destination. What I don’t think any of us take into consideration is that if they choose a school in California, our grandchildren will be in California. Now, that may work for some of you who like to travel but for those of us who don’t, it means we lose the joy of ever having a grandchild bang on our front door and say, “Gramma, do you have time for a visit?” (I do have that luxury!)
Often, as The Middles, we are tired of the job of parenting and have some pleasure in the idea that we soon will be emptynesters and just what are we going to do with those extra bedrooms and our new found free time? (The free time never seems to happen.)
In my own situation my mother was not happy with the idea that she and my father had raised me and my siblings in a small mill town. In general, she didn’t feel that the rest of the population was intelligent enough to produce the kind of families she envisioned for each of us. So my mother made it very clear that she
wanted all of us to go off to college, grow up, and make a future for ourselves somewhere else from Shakerton, Massachusetts. We all did as she directed. I can remember a very poignant conversation with my mother a few days after my younger brother, Coppy, had graduated from college in Worcester, Massachusetts. “He was only home for the evening of his graduation and then he was packed and off to his new job in Schenectady New York. You would think he could have stayed a few days,” She said. (The seeds we unconsciously sow.)
Now we have arrived at The Seniors and we have all those questions:
- Do we move to where the most responsive child lives?
- Do we build our own lives and hope the money lasts?
- Do we stay where we are planted with all of our children located somewhere fairly close to where we live?
- Do we pray like crazy that we never have to go into a “facility”
The third scenario gives us more freedom while being pretty independent we are still being part of an extended family. I know sometimes the in-laws don’t turn out to be receptive to the closeness and the responsibilities but if we haven’t discussed and planned, shaped our lives in such a way, we can wind up existing in a nursing home, alone.
So, I guess my bottom line is we need to be aware and shape our lives in such a way that we end up close to where we want to be. (Yes, I know sometimes the money runs out and there are no choices. But if we have been thinking all along we are more likely to get what would make our last year’s enjoyable; or at least not too lonely.)
Which generational questions are you grappling with and have you done some thinking and planning? I’d like to hear your stories. You can contact me at my website www.jessiemaykessler.com and click the CONTACT button.