i am a woman who chose not to have children. i wonder what others might be feeling/doing/thinking at the eldering stage of life if they too have made that choice. certainly, there are advantages to having been childless, ones which i still cherish and for which i am deeply grateful. i am also aware that, in the usual course of events, children care for parents in their ageing process. i don’t have that luxury. if you do have descendants, can you imagine what your life would be like without children and grandchildren? great grandchildren? how would you fill your days without childcare, without worry about them, without the joy they provide? how would you find your way in the world without those anchors?
in our current global environment having these descendants doesn’t mean they live near enough to be in your daily life. we often depend on technology to keep us connected with people we love who live far away. so many elders, who have these descendants, don’t have the contact that seemed to be so ordinary even 20 years ago. they too, like me, don’t have immediate family to care for them as the years pass.
where do we find the community that once took the shape of blood family? most of our friends are close to our own age and so not really able to take care of us when we might need it. there have been many projects and experiments in multi-generational connections. are they successful beyond the length of the experiment? how lasting are the relationships that were formed?
how do we create the sense of belonging, the sense of being cared for? with whom do we make the connections that matter? how do we sustain them over the distance of space and time? what are we willing to do in order to have this vital contact in our lives?
i have no answers. i am simply taking rilke’s advice.
Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.