Often times as we navigate the unchartered waters of weighing our choices when faced with fertility struggles, we find ourselves asking: “If I don’t have children, who will take care of me when I get old?”
It’s a common fear, it’s an unspoken question mark, and it’s the expression of an underlying assumption that those who parent will have a child who cares for them as they age.
Recently I visited my 92-year-old grandmother for a week. I have learned much from her over my 37 years of life–and this time she didn’t disappoint.
You see, though we all love her, not a single one of us is left in the little town in Montana where she lives. All three of her sons, and all of their children, have flown away into lives of their own–what every parent wants for their children–they’ve found their own dreams and happiness. And . . . that leaves her there alone.
So who takes care of her now that she’s old? Most weeks it’s her lifetime friend of nearly 90 years. In her own words, “she’s the one person who just gets me.”
Because my grandmother cannot see well her friend does her grocery shopping each week, she writes out and signs all of her checks for bills, she pick her up and takes her places for a change in scenery, and the two of them can sit and talk–or not talk–about things that no one can possibly understand.
You see those who parent make a choice to unselfishly love and give to their children. They choose to give without receiving–and with no guarantee of a future in which their children will reciprocate. And truly, it is a loving parent who does not want such reciprocation, just for their child to fly away and be happy.
So who will take care of us when we get older? Those who love us; those who have always loved us; and if we’re lucky, those who have known us all of our lives and can speak our story as though the author; they are the ones who will be there until the end; just as we will be there for them.