Years ago, while reading an online newspaper, I ran across a story that touched my heart in ways that surprised me. The story, from Italy, was about a 79-year-old man who had no family – no mate, no kids, no siblings. He had made news by putting himself up for adoption in the amount of 500 Euros, worth about $587.84 in today’s calculations. For some unbeknownst reason, this story broke my heart – until I, too, became “elderly.”
Right now, right this very moment, I wish I’d had 12 children, and 12 brothers and sisters. With a single child and a single sibling, things are getting harder and lonelier.
The choice of one sibling was not, of course, my choice. Due to my mother’s health problems and multiple miscarriages, I suspect that she – and others in the family – were absolutely delighted to have a single additional child. Then, as the older 7-year-old, I was, too. Now, as far older than 7, we two siblings have drifted apart. We talk seldom and see each other even less.
My only-child daughter was an incredible gift and was so perfect that I didn’t ever wish for any more children. Her career military father kept us on the move for most of her years, and I simply couldn’t see additional offspring in my future. As “The Only,” she had opportunities and adventures that most children never get to have in their lives. She was exposed to situations that required her to actively employ her formidable coping skills and was always treated to adult language in broader, more involved conversations.
Today, she and her husband have four children (the second-borne child, Journey, left us when she was a smidge over a year old) who are whip-smart and who are fiercely devoted to one another, even if you can’t tell that sometimes.
Now, as an “older person” (whatever that is), I find myself wishing that I’d had more relations in my family. Via postcards, I keep in touch weekly with my 93-year-old Uncle Leon in the rolling hills of Arkansas, my very longtime 91-year-old friend Ina May in Nebraska and my 92-year-old Uncle Jim in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. They all have loving spouses, children and/or other relatives who spend treasured time with them, and who are close enough to check in on them and make sure they have what they need.
As a fiercely independent woman whose next birthday is the big 70, I find myself wanting more children living closer, additional siblings situated in my neighborhood (or at least the same state as me) and countless relatives who could drop by more frequently. Correspondence with these three regular pen pals reveals that each of them receives regular support from relatives that I am beginning to envy.
I do, however, think I’m worth more than $587.84.