I’ll be honest, when we talked about the pros and cons of having a second child, one of the winningest points was that we’d have double the chances of having someone to care for us when we’re old. I know, right? How were we even allowed to have one kid? It’s true though, I have two sisters, Debra has one. When we have faced parental crises, we had someone else there to share the load. RR has no one. And, if she hates us, we will have no one, too.
This is no reason to have a child. And obviously, if you do go this route, there’s no guarantee it will work out. For example, our neighbor across the street is in her late seventies. She has two 40-something childless daughters. One is married and lives on an isolated farm in a tenant house a few hours away. The other has MS and a number of other health challenges, all of which keep her unable to fully care for herself. She and her two large dogs live with her mother. Neither daughter can help our neighbor on the spot and, as we’ve learned, that’s what neighbors are for anyway.
Over the years we have been the go-to for tricky lightbulb changes, Christmas tree assembly, garden help, and notably, grave-digging for one sweet cat. In the last two weeks, I’ve had to carry one of the dogs into the house from the car twice. The first time, Minnie (the dog) was soaked in blood from burst sutures and Jenny (the daughter) was having a full-blown anxiety attack. The second time was from another suture repair but it had the distinction of being at 10 at night and Minnie was only a little bloody. Jenny was nowhere to be seen.
Last Friday, our neighbor called frantically for help streaming the Olympics on her computer. You see, a large branch knocked her phone and power lines down and the cable apparently wasn’t resurrected when the lines were repaired. Helping the elderly use electronic devices is not my strong suit. However, Debra has begun to flatly refuse to help her and our neighbor was in tears so off I stamped. My heart breaks for her. Life has been rough lately and she doesn’t have any other family but her daughters.
I don’t want to help her. I don’t like that her house smells like cats. I don’t like washing blood off every time Minnie goes rogue. I don’t like answering my phone. I don’t like unexpected visits. I just want to be left in peace. I want to have boundaries. But I ALSO don’t want to be alone when I’m old. I don’t want no one to want to help me. I don’t want to be helpless. I don’t want to cry in front of the nice girl from across the street. I want my daughter to want to help me. And not to be so far away that she can’t.
And that’s the kicker. I don’t want to be the anchor that holds RR still. So I help my neighbor because I hope someday someone will help me. I don’t know if it works that way but I sure hope it does.