November 12, 1981
The only one in our family who seemed to be really looking out for Gran was my Aunt Marion. She lived with Gran and took really good care of her. But what other choice did she have, really? Gran sucked all the life out of her.
During the prayers at the funeral home, I looked over to where she was sitting, next to Uncle Bob. I couldn’t tell if she was crying or not. She was just sitting quietly, staring down at her lap. I know if it was me, I’d be feeling more relieved than anything. I’ve always felt sorry for Aunt Marion. She gave up everything to stay home and take care of her mother, after Grandpa died. Not that Gran ever appreciated it. She probably thought that Marion was just a failure. Couldn’t find a man, so she stayed home with Mother. But you know what a fuss she would have kicked up if Marion had ever tried to leave.
I wonder what she’s going to do now? Luckily for her, she’s got a fairly good job. But what about the rest of it? There’s a hell of a lot more to life than work. She’s not that old, really, early fifties, I guess. There’s a long time ahead of her to be alone. She’s pretty enough, or could be, with the right hair cut and some decent clothes. And she sure has the devotion thing down pat. The right guy would be lucky to have her. It scares me sometimes, seeing Aunt Marion and realizing how life can pass you by before you know it and you can end up middle-aged and lonely before you’ve even had a chance to live.
Speaking of middle-aged before your time, Jane was there, too, sitting off to one side with her husband. Jane is my, what? Well, she’s Great Aunt Bernice and Uncle Jack’s granddaughter. Great Aunt Bernice is Gran’s sister, so that makes Jane my, what? Second? Third cousin? Whatever. We’re related somehow, and the same age, almost exactly. When we were kids, we were sort of friends. Neither one of us had any other relatives the same age, except for my cousin Cindy, but we never saw her once Uncle Bob and Aunt Sophia got divorced. So at family gatherings, Jane and I would always end up together. When you’re little, just being the same age is enough to base a friendship on.
Jane’s married now, with three kids. Her husband went to school with my fiancé, Mitch. Funny how things work out that way. You meet someone you think is entirely new and it turns out they know, like, half the people in your life. It’s like there’s this current that runs through life, connecting you to certain people, and you don’t really have much of a choice about it. I guess that current can keep you away from some people, too, no matter what you do, which is kind of sad, when you think about it.
Anyway, poor Jane got everything you’re supposed to want in this life: a husband, a house, kids. But she still looks like life has passed her by. I guess you can still end up missing out, even when you grab everything you can get.
I felt pretty bare and vulnerable being there all by myself that night. Mitch and I have been practically welded together since the day we met, way back in university. We’re engaged now, whatever that means. My mother is always asking us to set a wedding date, but I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet. Mum’s afraid we’ll end up having an accident like I was. I’ve told her we’re being careful, but that doesn’t seem to make her any happier. There’s just no pleasing that woman. She has to have things in tidy little boxes. First the wedding, then the grandkids. I think her life would have been a lot easier if I’d had some brothers or sisters, but I guess I was a difficult birth. She ended up having to have a hysterectomy. I guess I wrecked something on the way out, making sure I’d be an only child forever. It’s not like it was my fault, I didn’t do it on purpose, but there are some in the family who use that as further evidence of my selfishness.
Anyway, Mum really wants grandkids, at the proper time, and I guess she kind of feels like I owe them to her, since I made it impossible for her to have any more of her own.
Actually, I don’t plan on having kids, ever. Of course, I haven’t told her that. I’d never hear the end of it. I don’t believe in having kids. It just seems like a really rotten thing to do to someone. Have them, I mean, when you know that, inevitably, they’re just going to die. I mean, what’s the point? Is it really fair to do that to your kids? I mean, at some point in his life, this kid, who’s been going along thinking that life is great, is finally going to have to realize that it’s all going to end. Is that any way to treat your children?
People keep saying that they have kids because they have so much love to give that they just want to spread it around and that making a baby is the most natural way to express that. But is it really love to make someone you know is doomed? That doesn’t seem to me to be a very loving thing to do.
I think people just get to the point where they have to admit that they’re doomed and they want to be assured of some company when it happens to them, so they have kids, counting on family loyalty to make it all right, never mind what the kids will eventually have to go through themselves. I think parents are, at heart, selfish.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad my parents had me. I’m glad to be here and all. I just don’t think I could face the responsibility of making that kind of decision for anyone else.
Mitch says that’s a really stupid reason not to have kids and nobody in the world would think of it but me. But genetics being what they are, I know my kid would. The recriminations would be endless.