“Hi Dad, how are you doing?”
Tonight, as I do every week between dinner and “Dancing with the Stars,” I will call my 86-year-old father and ask that question. God willing, his answer will be mostly positive. Yes, his leg hurts, his back hurts, he’s tired from working in the yard, and the idiots at the banks are driving him crazy, but he’s mostly okay. I always hold my breath until I hear his response, fearing—no, knowing—that one day his answer will be much more frightening or he might not answer at all. Sometimes I just listen to the sound of his voice and try to drink it in.
What does this have to do with childlessness? Simply this: I would give anything to have a son or daughter call me every week and ask how I’m doing—and really care about the answer. I may not have mentioned here that my husband has Alzheimer’s disease, but now that it has been published in The Sun and in the new book A Cup of Comfort for Families Touched by Alzheimer’s Disease, it can’t remain a secret. This is a horrible disease that takes a person away a little more every day. Increasingly, the burden of his care and the care of everything in our household falls on me. I can’t handle it all. Our family is far away. I depend on a network of friends and paid helpers, but it’s never enough. Every day is a marathon in which I fall farther behind.
People in this situation who have children can sometimes call on them to help or even take over when the caregiver can’t do any more. Even if that doesn’t happen, a simple telephone call or even an e-mail saying, “Mom, how are you doing?” would help so much. When you don’t have children, well, the phone doesn’t ring very often.
I’m sorry to be so gloomy, but that’s how I’m feeling today and why I’m doing last week’s post today. One aspect of being childless is that when your spouse gets sick, you’re on your own.
I’m intent on finishing my book soon and getting it out next year. People need to understand what it’s like to be childless. Your encouragement helps.
On Friday, let’s talk about Thanksgiving. Your comments and suggestions are welcome.