Pondering sons, aunts, and untold stories

How are you? I’m struggling a bit. So I offer a few random thoughts today.

1) Last week we were talking about workplace conflicts between moms and employees without children. (Why is it never about dads?) You might be interested in this article, “Four Things Your Childless Co-Workers Think About You as a Working Mom.”  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

2) Two of the three readings for this Sunday’s Mass in the Catholic Church are about widows whose apparently dead sons have been brought back to life, one by Elijah and one by Jesus. Religious considerations aside, in those days, when the husband died, the sons were expected to step in and take care of the widowed mothers for the rest of their lives. In fact, before Jesus died, he asked one of his friends to take care of Mary. I don’t have a son. My stepsons have stepped far, far away. While I’m a full-fledged adult and far from helpless, there are sure times when the idea that I could have had a son who cared about me and was available to help me just makes me want to sob because I’ll never have that. Know what I mean?

3) I’m an aunt, but I live far from my niece and nephew and don’t feel included in their lives. I don’t even know my late husband’s nieces and nephews. He didn’t know them either. We read a lot about how being an aunt can be almost as good as being a parent. Maybe in some families, but not in mine. Sure, we saw them at family gatherings and got presents from them. We were friendly enough, but extended hanging out or confiding in them? It didn’t happen. Are you close to your aunts? Or uncles? To your nieces and nephews?

4) I have just published new editions of one of my older books, Stories Grandma Never Told. The print version has a new cover, and the book is now available as a Kindle e-book for the first time. Read more about it at my Unleashed in Oregon blog. Working on this book again made me think about those stories Grandma never told. The book is oral history, with lots of Portuguese American women talking about immigration, education, work, family, ethnic traditions, and more. I never heard these stories from my own grandmother. She died before it occurred to me to ask. I frequently preach that we should not let our family stories die, that we should ask our elders to tell us what it was like when they were young because when they’re gone, who will be left to ask? I’m always coming up with questions I wish I could ask my mother, but she passed away 14 years ago. I grill my dad regularly.

But here’s the thing. For those of us who never have children, who will never be grandmas, who will we tell our stories to? Being a writer, I can share everything in my books, essays and poems, but what about people who are not writers? Where will their memories go? Suggestions? Maybe we could make a list of possible ways to leave something behind.

5) Enough depressing thoughts. Have any of you had trouble commenting here? What happens when you click “comment?” Are there too many steps to take to get in? Please me know. Sometimes I get emails (sufalick@gmail.com) from people who have trouble with the comment function, and I don’t know whether the problem is them or the settings. I don’t want anything to get in the way of our conversations. If you can’t get in, email me.

Keep reading and commenting. I’m so glad you’re here.

8 thoughts on “Pondering sons, aunts, and untold stories

  1. You have so much on your mind, Sue. Big congrats on re-publishing your book! I normally don’t have issues with comments. I think the popsugar article was ridiculous. I’m confused as to how we came to a place where childless people are seen as “enemies” of parents & vice versa. Good grief. It’s okay if someone isn’t exactly like you. Maybe it’s always been this way & I’m just now noticing. Yes, I’m close to my one nephew that I’m biologically related to (as close as we can be – his young family and job take up a lot of his time & attention). My husband’s nephews, not so much.


    • “I’m confused as to how we came to a place where childless people are seen as “enemies” of parents & vice versa” – I agree, SilverShil0h. I feel we need to find common ground and help each other.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reading that reminds me that I should go visit my aunts more! I agree with the article about working mums where it says that all employees should be offered things like flexi time, not just parents so it won’t lead to any resentment.


  3. I was extremely close to my mother’s sister who passed away five years ago. She was like a second mother to me, and always there for important milestones in my life. She was childless, but I never asked why. It was always a non-issue while I was growing up. Now, I wish every day that she was still in my life as I struggle through this. I would love to have someone close to me understand how I’m feeling and offer some guidance to heal.
    I’ve been thinking lately about the saying “life doesn’t always turn out how you expect” – It is cliche to the point of being meaningless. The ramifications of that saying have really hit me hard lately – and I find myself taking comfort in it for some reason.


  4. I’m sorry you’re having a hard time, Sue. I do know what you mean about some of the things about being childless that just make you want to sob… and sometimes I do! I’m not particularly close to my only sibling, my brother, and although I’ve tried reaching out to his long-term girlfriend, I get nothing back from her so I don’t hold out much hope that if they have children one day I might be a part of their lives, not just because we live so far away from each other, so I get what you’re saying. I am so grateful to you for this blog and having a space to connect with others who understand what I’m going through. So thank you for that. And huge congratulations on publishing a new edition of your book. How amazing!! Hope the sun is shining where you are this weekend. Hugs to you. x


  5. Although I read this a while I ago, I haven’t had time to respond. Our move is coming quickly. Two more weeks, and I will be leaving my home in paradise. My heart is broken, and I cry pretty much every day. So much to do moving 3,000 miles and an ocean away.

    I did literally laugh out loud about your comment about the sons taking care of their moms if the husband dies. Yeah, right! I know I’ve shared before about my husband’s son leaving us high and dry when my husband got sick. I have known him since he was two; he is 35 now. I have always been there for him with either money or a place to stay over the years for him AND his girlfriends and when I needed him just ONCE… He moves 3,000 miles away. I understand why. His need for drugs outweighs my need for help. I get it, he is a drug user. and it’s all about them. Did I ever tell you the story where when we had asked him to move out because he failed to follow our no drug use policy, he tried convincing his dad to leave me, and that he would take care of him?? That was hilarious. He was 34, living with us and had just gotten fired from a minimum wage job…. And he wants to take care of his ailing father. I laughed, but it actually made my husband cry. I felt so sad for him. It was a good reminder that kids aren’t the answer to everything!

    As far as your comment about aunts. I had 10 of them between the two sides. None of them had any interest in any of us kids. Still today, those that are still alive, still aren’t interested. So when I became an aunt of three nieces, I was going to do it differently! I love on my girls all the time. I call them, text them and let them know how much they are loved by me. I played with them when they were small and now go to the mall or go out to lunch (they are teenagers). They will never go through life not knowing how much I love and adore them. I am going to be the crazy old aunt to them and hopefully their children, too. But as far as being an aunt replacing being a mother. Not even close. It took me a while to adjust to having children to love. It was actually hard at first because I had closed myself off to everyone’s children. Too painful. And now I was in a place where it would be odd if I didn’t hold them, or love them. They love me too, and it really is a joy, but it doesn’t come close to filling the void.

    As far as your question about where our memories will go since we don’t have any children, I guess they just blow away in the wind when we pass away. Just yesterday, I had commented to my husband about my prized mementos that I have saved since childhood. When I die, they will just be rubbish to whoever cleans out my house (heaven help them. I have a lot!). At first, that makes me very sad. But when you think about it, even people with children, their mementos may or may not have meaning. And even those mementos that do have meaning will eventually lose their meaning as the generations pass. So in actuality, it really isn’t any different than people with children. I’m not sure if I’m getting my thought out correctly. But, who of us have prized memories or mementos from our great, great, great grandparents. Make sense? So in the end, all memories fade and mementos turn to rubbish, as sad as it is.

    Hope you are feeling better. We all go through those low moments, but in actuality we all have so much to be grateful for in life. Being a mother isn’t the answer to all our sorrows. Just yesterday as we were flying home from a doctor’s appointment, we were in the airport and there was a mother with her child. The child was in an oversized wheelchair with tubes and cushions on both sides of the child’s head as it was apparent the possibly 8-year-old couldn’t even hold his head up on his own. The chair was also tipped backwards a bit too, most likely to keep the head from falling forward. It was a good reminder that just because you have a child, it doesn’t mean your life is perfect. This mother has a very long road ahead of her. Things like that help keep life in perspective for me.


    • I totally get what you mean about those mementos, Candy. I antique a lot and am always stunned by the types of things I’m able to purchase: love letters, photos, scrapbooks, monogrammed items, jewelry. I always think – “Did NO ONE want these things? How could they let it go?” Those who are sentimental might save their parents’ love letters. But would their children be interested? Maybe. But after a certain amount of time, those mementos could have belonged to anyone and if you aren’t sentimental, you aren’t going to keep them, store them and move them around with you for the rest of your life.

      In regards to Sue’s post about nieces and nephews. We try our best, but it’s not always easy for the parents of our nieces and nephews to include us in their lives. They do occasionally, but life gets busy and people forget. Kids don’t always care about aunts and uncles being around when they have their own parents to take care of them and cousins to entertain them.

      Plus, I’m gun-shy now. My terrible sister-in-law (the one I always complain about) used to love having us around. Things are different now and due to circumstances out of our control I’m no longer a special aunt. And I miss those kids a lot. But the fact remains is that that they were never “mine.” I felt entitled to them because we had a special bond. But in the end their mother gets to call the shots and DH and I were left out in the cold. Now I watch from the sidelines and there is nothing I can do about it. It’s a helpless feeling that leaves me very sad.

      I have a group of 10-year-olds who come to my store and I let them use my equipment and basically hang out. Sometime I give them snacks. I enjoy asking them “how was your day? How did your test go?” I even attended an art show that one of the girls was in. I’ve dried their tears, helped them along. Their parents don’t care or know where they are half the time. We’re friendly and I enjoy their chatter as I work.

      I know I have made a difference in their lives and I know they admire me. But now that it’s summertime they are busy elsewhere and I’m not on the list. I miss them, but they aren’t my kids and I don’t get to call any shots. And I know how weird it would be for me to call up their mom and say, “Hey, send the girls over.”

      These two experiences have shown me that I need to protect my heart and not let myself think I’m more important than I really am to them. I’m a nice person. A fun grownup friend. A person they can count on. But I’m not a mom and I shouldn’t pretend. It just hurts too much when they move on.

      Anon S


      • Anon S, Thanks for sharing this. Those 10-year-olds are really lucky to have you in their lives. I really get what you’re saying about the problems being an aunt. My nephew has a baby now, and my sister-in-law is super tight with his little family but I wasn’t invited to either of the baby showers. It’s a closed circle I can’t seem to get into. Hang in there. Our day will come.


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