Dying Childless & Alone, and Other Cheerful Things
The Maybe Lady was flying solo last weekend while Drew surprised his brother Eric for his 40th birthday by showing up on his doorstep in Chicago. I’m glad Drew got to go, and I’m actually glad he got to go alone. Though it would have been great for me to see his family (and my own in that neck of the woods), it gave him the chance to have some rare siblings-only bonding, and some good old-fashioned boys-drinking-too-much-whiskey-and-throwing-up-in-the-yard* fun.
But while he was gone, I realized just how long it had been since I’d been on my own overnight. I could have called any one of my friends or done something wildly productive like start a dried insect collection, but I was strangely distracted by how much I missed him and instead watched a crappy Rom Com, ate cereal for dinner and slept with a Santoku knife in my top dresser drawer to fend off potential intruders. It was a brief and terrifying glimpse into Life Without Drew.
My mind couldn’t help but wonder what was going to happen when Drew was gone for good. He’s almost two years older than me, and when you take into account…
- the lifespan differences between men (66 – 82) and women (74 – 86) in the U.S.,
- my gene pool (my 84 year old grandfather kicked my ass in an hour-long walk on the beach last week, and my great Aunt Mable died recently at 104), and
- the scores of Hawaiian pizzas and Hamm’s beers Drew consumed in his bachelor days
…he just ain’t gonna outlast me. Probably by a pretty solid number of years, unfortunately. I used to think I’d be able to handle that with some grace, or at least that it wouldn’t send me into a spiral of regret about not having some kids around to soften the blow. I’d always thought that the fear of dying alone or not having someone to take care of you in your old age was a rather lame reason to have kids. It was something that never even factored into my baby decision for a few reasons:
- I figured I’d be surrounded by other similarly ancient beings in my Del Boca-Whatever community down in Florida, or the assisted living facility. And yes, I’ve heard the nursing home horror stories, but I assumed my Childfree savings account could at least buy me a pretty darn good chance at a nice facility. While the idea of playing Pinochle in twelve hour shifts might seem like a nightmare to some, that’s just Day One of any vacation with my family.
- I have no qualms about taking myself out (like, permanently) if I find myself in one of those nightmare nursing home situations.
- I decided long ago with my best friend Ale (who’s never been sure on the whole kids thing either) that we’d Golden Girls-it with a couple other ladies somewhere warm once our slightly-older-than-us husbands kicked off. I regret to inform you all that I was selected to fill Bea Arthur’s role of Dorothy (I hope it was for my height and acerbic wit rather than my snazzy pantsuits and smoky baritone voice).
While I suppose I always knew in the back of my mind that the Golden Girls dream would never come to fruition, it was only truly hammered home earlier this year when Ale announced her pregnancy. Now it was only me that would need an Estelle, Blanche and Rose to keep me company in my old age. Sure, I have plenty of sassy, slutty and space-cadet friends (respectively) to fill those roles**, but every single one of them already has a kid, is pregnant, or has definitive plans to start having children as soon as they can. Will I truly be the only one of my friends to be left entirely alone at the end?
Before last weekend, I might’ve said, Okay, I can survive that too, and find a way to enjoy the solitude. And of course, I will if I must. But I have to say, if Drew’s brief absence was just a slight hint at the chasm of loneliness that opens up after the death of a spouse when you don’t have children…well, that’s going to suck.
I know this isn’t a good enough reason to have kids. I’d be a real loser if I thought it was. And I know that having a child is no guarantee that they’ll be a good support system later in life, or that they’ll take you in or visit you in the nursing home (in fact, there’s all kinds of evidence to the contrary). But I’ll concede that increasing your chances of having someone around during what might be the loneliest part of your life is at least a notch in the “pros” column for having kids.
Or maybe the next time Drew goes out of town, I should just use the free time to start on my plans to build the People Who Never Had Kids Nursing Home. Applications for co-founders are now being accepted; those with Estelle Getty-sass and a fondness for Pinochle will be given special consideration.
*Lest anyone make a hasty remark about the boozy Childfree lifestyle, I feel I must state for the record that the puker was, in fact, a proud father of one and a half children.
**Just kidding, friends. Except you, Racquel – I meant every word.