Ever wonder how we’d live our lives if we knew from very early on everything we know now? Admit it. We’ve all thought about it. “I’d have gone to see this…I’ve have gone to do that…I’d have spent more time with this person…I’d have slept with all these people before they got old and ugly…I’d have played more and harder when I was physically able to…” and, of course, “I’d have taken greater advantage of my youth.” So much of what we’re lead to believe when we’re young doesn’t quite turn out the way we thought it would later; study, graduate, go to college, get married, work hard, raise a family and retire in luxury to enjoy our golden years. It’s a lie. It’s a beautiful lie, but a lie nonetheless. At least for the overwhelming majority of us.
It occurred to me last week that one of the great fibs, if you will, is the idea of attaining some amount of “me” time that you’ll enjoy one day. I can’t say I’m really seeing it in my future other than as a very ironic end area of a circle we follow in life. Helping your parents because you’re under the age of 18 and still living in their house is a convenience for them. It may even by why they had you. Helping them after the age of 18 becomes much less about convenience and more about necessity. We age and they age. Things they had you do before to torture you for their amusement are things you now do for them because they’re incapable of it. Or you pay someone to do it for you for them because you’re still bitter about being made to do it when you were younger.
We do what we can to get out of the house and stand on our own feet. We think then that the life we forge will always be one of freedom away from the parental shackles of youth. Not so. We learn to stand on our own feet so we’ll be in a much more mature position to go back and help them when they need it. And they will need it. And it’s not as much fun reminding them how they tortured you all those years back making you mow the lawn and pull weeds when it’s discovered you weren’t fibbing and actually legitimately suffered from hay fever. It’s also about the time you learn your parents are people just like everybody else. We’re all flawed, we all make mistakes and we hopefully all learn to look past many of them. They did with us, so we do it with them. It’s reciprocal.
The golden retirement exists for some, but not for all and certainly not for many. For those who can experience it, good for you. Don’t take it for granted. For those who don’t, I understand more than you know. If cancer doesn’t get us, Alzheimer’s will. Fortunately, I don’t sit here and wonder which one (or if it’ll be both) will get me. Who has that kind of time to waste? We go from being kids to students to worker bees to spouses (some to parents)to caregivers. That is so not in the instruction manual, but don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about where life has gone. I’m just annoyed that we weren’t warned and properly prepared for it. We were instead lead to believe something else entirely.
My husband has his own unique approach to the future. I’m just not entirely sure what it is. Some things? Sure. He’s very big on putting money away. As for his thoughts on aging? No idea. And when we’ve come to any hurdle? He’ll stare at it, consider it, stare at it, continue staring at it, and then stare at it some more. That’s usually when I get in my tank and push forward over it until enough progress has been made to solve it. I don’t like problems. I see a problem, I do what I can to solve it as quickly as humanly possible. Basically, I confound him at times.
I know there are days Pookie looks at me and wonders “What’s going on in there? And thank God you can’t hear me ask because I’m pretty sure you’d tell me and I don’t know that I really want to know except out of morbid curiosity.” He and I have many of these mental conversations and he doesn’t even have to be in the same room or in the state for us to have them. Then, of course, there are the conversations he mentally walks in on when he’s home and laying down next to me.
Moi: Do you ever think about the future?
Pookie: Oh, God. I knew I should have slept on the plane.
Moi: I’m serious.
Pookie: So am I.
Moi: Who’s going to take care of us when we get to be our parents’ age? Are we even going to be able to afford it and is anyone even going to care?
Pookie: Fine. Grab the lube.
Moi: And what about all the things we’ve accumulated over the years that have stories and memories behind them, not to mention sentimental value? Who are we going to pass those onto or is everything just going to be sold off or given to charity to people who have no idea of what it means or meant to us?
Pookie: I’ll get the lube myself. Where is it?
Moi: Next to the bouncing glowball we picked up in Hong Kong during my second trip the night we went to the festival of flowers with your Grandmonster. You saw someone bouncing them, they lit up and you had to have two of them, which you then refused to take out of the box so the batteries would last longer. They were selling them right next to the place with the picture scrolls where I found the Ultra-Man that’s hanging up in the dining room.
Pookie: How do you remember all this crap?
Moi: Because I remember the details. They’re important and a part of who we are together. Remember the time you…
Pookie: Kiss me, please.
Pookie: It may be the only way I can get you to shut up.
It’s certainly not the worst way to get me to quiet down, but the future’s still out there…staring at us…daring us and not giving us many signs of what’s in store. I’ll keep my tank gassed up and armed just in case.
Kage Alan is the Killer Klowns From Outer Space watching, Sarah Brightman listening author of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Sexual Orientation,” “Andy Stevenson Vs. the Lord of the Loins” and the first book in a separate series, “Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell.” For the record, I mentioned above about not liking mowing the lawn of pulling weeds. It’s true. I’m allergic to trees, weeds and grass as well as a number of other things. So every time I was commanded to go out and mow the lawn was essentially sentencing me to two days of misery with my allergies. The problem is I was already known for trying to get out of doing almost any form of work. I didn’t have a sibling, you see, so I couldn’t do the time honored tradition of pawning it off on a brother or sister. It did force me to be more creative, though.