We sat around a table at Stella's last night- my family- drinking exquisite overpriced Belgian beer and getting happily sozzled together: me, Jon, my brother, sister-in-law, and my Dad, in town on business. Work has been an escape for him in the last couple of months since my stepmom died. The companies he works for have money to burn before the end of the fiscal year so he jets off to Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, and there must be some relief in not rattling around in a house that was large for two people and now houses only one.
I feel guilty that my life hasn't changed more since June's death. That I could say oh god that's tragic and still go on with things as before seems horrible; not because it lacks respect for the dead but because I can't make more room in my life for my father now that he's alone. In another ideal universe I give up work and move in with him and we break through the awkward pauses and find a new closeness in our shared grief.
But it's not like that. I simply can't stop working; every job and every dollar is essential. And if I'm more honest, I didn't want to, not really. I love my dad, and we like each other too, but it's not easy, not the way it is with my mom. We don't have a shared vocabulary.
So we did what we could last night: we got expensively tipsy together and had some laughs and maybe it wasn't much but at least we all enjoy being in the same room together, and if we need a few beers to make conversation flow a bit more smoothly well, that's what beer's for, right?
And it gets me thinking, especially in light of a few blog posts I've read recently on the whole moms-versus-nonmoms debate in the blogosphere. You know, the one where some moms are saying well you just don't get it 'til you've had kids I mean I'm way more of a woman than you'll ever be and the childless are saying don't give me that crap and if you complain about being sleep-deprived one more time I'll... Both "sides" feeling cranky and judged. I love shit like this. I love wading through the posts and the endless commentary, agreeing and disagreeing with various writers. I read a lot of "mom" blogs like a voyeur who peeks into a noisy dark room and takes it in hungrily then says that was... interesting. I don't want to live there, ever. But maybe I could visit again sometime?
Here's what I think: I think choosing to have OR not to have kids is an inherently selfish decision. I mean, I didn't choose not to have kids because the planet is overcrowded (although it is), or because I was afraid I wouldn't be a good enough mom (also true). I choose to be childless because my love of travel, sleeping in and playing music far outweighs any desire I have to breed. And you parents, you didn't have kids because they might discover a cure for cancer (they most likely won't, you know) or create world peace (ditto). You had them because you wanted someone new to love, or to save your marriage, or because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
But getting back to family (see, I'll tie this all together eventually). You may have kids and they'll have kids and you'll all sit together at a table one day and drink beer and act like a clan of some sort. Or you may have a brood but you all hate each other or live halfway around the world and never see each other. Or you may choose, like my brother and I, to live a life without kids. To bring our branch of the family to an end. Which means that if (god forbid) I'm widowed one day, there may be no one to have dinner with.
When I'm old, who'll be at the table- so to speak- with me?