Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Why We Might Adopt You, Though It Might Be Better if You Adopted Us

My mother-in-law is fortunate. She has four daughters all of whom are to one degree or another interested in making her old age tolerable. Some are more concerned than others and some have ideas of how much they are owed in compensation for their interest that I do not agree with. But all of them are involved. One daughter has more or less moved in with her mom to help care for her, though she likes to describe her presence as a visit.

A year is a very long visit.

Another of my wife's sisters, observing how much her mother now relies on her daughters, wonders what will happen to her when she is old. She is divorced and childless. The short answer is that my wife and I will help take care of her, though I would draw the line at having her live with us. We don't have children, and -- here's another short description of a more complicated situation -- my wife's sisters are our children.

And now we get down to it: Who will take care of us? It's a day for short answers: nobody. Whatever help we get we will have to buy. I'm not exactly complaining. Not everyone with children is well served by their children, though we have many friends who treat their aged parents well. I wonder the degree to which old folk make bad decisions about health, about relationships outside the family, about investments, out of some perverse sense that dammit the kids owe us something so why not put ourselves in a difficult situation where our needs are ever more apparent.

I do not know. I am very nearly estranged from my own mother because her attempts at manipulation finally got on my nerves.

I do know that when we are my mother-in-law's age, no one will be looking out for us the way my wife tries to look our for her mother and her sisters. Perhaps knowing that, my wife and I will make better decisions now and be less disappointed than some of our fecund friends will be when they discover the children they have are not the ones they imagined. But whatever the case, even if we are sensible in our planning and lucky in the way that planning works out, sometimes I do think it would be nice to have had a daughter if that daughter were just like my wife.

But it's greedy and shows contempt for the laws of probability to think I would have gotten that luck twice.


B. Wieder said...

Not to mention the fact that if she were just like your wife, you'd have ultimately been unable to keep your hot, sweaty, filthy hands off her. So it's just as well, eh?

G Pabst said...

Here we run up against the whole reason we have kids, anyway: to take care of us in our old age and inherit the farm/smithy/inn/etc.

Which is what it very much was when religions codified the rules of a "civilized" people. And why abortion is such a hot button, I think. We're hard-wired to produce labor for the family business (a sentence that reverberates with pun potential).

And once we left the farm/smithy/inn/etc. and went to work for ArcherDanielsMidland/US Steel/Hilton/etc. we got a pension, plus Social Security. And didn't need children for our old age. At least not quite as much.

Come the Age of Bush II: anti-abortion needs to be reversed. "Let's fuck with social security and let the corporations out of their pension funds and show them how wrong they were. The Ancient Truths are the only truth. There! That'll settle their senile hash! Won't be anyone trusting the government to take care of their dross years."

Meanwhile the profiteers will have coffee fincas in Cuba for their declining years. And my kids may be working on one.