Since I can’t totally empathize with Suzanne—having two little blessings in my life that I scream at too often—I sent her comment to my guardian angel, Ann, because I know that not being able to conceive and bear children of her own was a big source of her depression.
As always, she blew me away not only by her immediate compassion and generosity of time and effort toward a “stranger” (although Suzanne is hardly a stranger to me), but also at the wisdom that lies within this woman-angel’s heart and mind.
She gives some practical advice about Halloween night, but, more importantly, how to fill that emptiness on an every day basis if you find yourself childless.
Dear Therese and Suzanne,
I’m writing you a joint e-mail because Therese, you are empathetic toward Suzanne and me, and I do hope I can bring some joy to Suzanne, in spite of all of the suffering you, Suzanne, have endured.
I know of many couples who have no children who have fulfilling lives. Not having our own children was a nightmare until we adopted Paul in 1970. Now, would you believe, our son asked me while vacationing in Maine with his wife and child, “Is Therese taking my place?” Sibling rivalry from a thirty-seven year old man! He hasn’t met Therese, and yet he knows how much we mean to each other.
I make this point to show you, that it is possible to reach out to younger people and experience the joy of nurturing and parenting. I find you can parent without children! Therese is an integral part of our life and I do think we give Therese and Eric strength during the rough times. [my side note: THEY DO!!!!!] Dick and I have been married 42 years, which is reassuring to Eric [that’s an understatement!], who also lives with a bipolar wife.
I am 65 and thought I wanted to have five children when I was in college studying early childhood education. I have always loved children, and have befriended many to fill the gaps. I understand how hard it must be to be in a gated community on Halloween.
Here are some suggestions:
* Call a friend with young children and offer to take them trick-or-treating so that the parents can be at home for the youngsters who come to their home. You could also offer to stay at the home of a friend in the community to give out candy, and enjoy that as well.
* Call your church and the near-by schools to see if they are going to have a Halloween parade, and ask if you could come to see the children. Tell them that you are in a retirement community, and would be more than happy to help, if help is needed.
* Perhaps you and your boyfriend could dress up and deliver candy to those who live in your complex. It would bring joy to those who miss having children come to their homes.
As far as how to fill the everyday void, be creative!
Call your church, and if you don’t have one, find one! Most churches have a nursery where babies are left with responsible adults and parents while the parents attend church. You can get a great baby fix each Sunday, or now and then.
Seven years ago, I noticed a very attractive pregnant couple at church with their children, two and four years old. I asked the mother-to-be if her mother was coming when she delivered her child. She said, “Are you kidding?” I said that I would love to be with her two small children when she and her husband had to head for the hospital. We spent Christmas Eve at our house so the children would feel comfortable with us. I was called early in January, and ever since we have remained very close to the dear family of five.
The children love to come here when their mom has appointments and we are surrogate grandparents. We are surrogate Godparents to their son, whose Godparent’s don’t give him special individual attention. Their dad looks to my husband for advice in his job, and their mom and I have “girls night out” when we can. This relationship began when I was just your age. The rewards have been endless.
There are many more young people in our lives than people our age. I frequently ask various children from our church if there is a good movie around. When there is something they want to see, I take them out for lunch and to the movie. It is good for me, and good for the parents.
If you haven’t seen “Because of Winn Dixie“, rent it. I ask children if they have seen the movie, and when they say “yes”, I ask them which character reminded them of me. Without taking a breath, they quickly say, “Gloria Dump”. It is a wonderful compliment. See the movie and you will know why I feel honored to be thought of as “Gloria Dump!”
One final thought. When we hurt, I believe we have to parent ourselves, to help ourselves through the rough and painful spots. My father committed suicide when I was seven. The loss is always there and magnified when I see fathers with their seven-year-old daughters. For a long time just seeing a father with any age child hurt tremendously. Being bipolar myself, I can understand better how the disease took him. I mourn for the fact he wasn’t helped, but medicine then is not what it is now. Still, as you feel an emptiness in your womb for never having children, I feel an emptiness in my heart for the years I missed with my father.
I would rather have a boyfriend at age 59, than a baby to raise! Perhaps you will marry and become the missing link to young couples and children in your lives.
Therese’s Guardian Angel Ann