At my husband’s nursing home yesterday, we shared a red-clothed table with a mother and daughter for the Valentine’s Day party. It wasn’t much of a party. Most of the residents were napping. Those of us who were awake ate cupcakes, jelly beans, M&M’s, and those little sugar hearts with writing on them. I sang songs and played my guitar, and we played a little bingo with the sugar hearts. Actually, the activities director, the daughter and I played bingo, and Fred and the mom sat while we pushed candies around their cards. The mom, Jean, has been in a mood lately. She used to be very talkative and always got up to sing and dance when anyone played music. But now she just sat there in her red sweater, frowning. Her daughter, dressed identically in red and black, sang with me as we tried to keep this slow party going.
After I had won my second round of Bingo and eaten another heart, Jean suddenly surprised me. “How many kids do ya have?” she asked.
I stared and saw her staring back intently. “I don’t have any children,” I said. I felt so disloyal to my husband, not acknowledging the stepchildren. But he was my link to them, and the link is broken. “He has three,” I said,” pointing to Fred. Jean went back to her silence as an aide started setting tiny glasses of milk on the tables in preparation for dinner. The daughter and I exchanged looks. Time to go.
I wonder what would have happened if I did have children to talk about.