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.

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Get Some Boxes–Childless by Marriage is Moving


Dear friends,
Next month, I will have been doing the Childless by Marriage blog for eight years. My first post was published on Aug. 27, 2007. Unbelievable. Eight years. Don’t panic. I have no intention of stopping. But I am working on moving the blog to a new site at WordPress.com. The address will be http://www.childlessbymarriageblog.com. The new site will offer features I can’t get with a “blogspot” blog and increase our community of childless-by-marriage friends. I already have two other blogs at WordPress, Unleashed in Oregon and Writer Aid. If all works smoothly, the previous posts and comments from this blog will be transferred to the new site. But I don’t want to take any chances, so until Aug. 26, 2015, I will publish the same posts at both sites.
I started the Childless by Marriage blog before I finished the Childless by Marriagebook, which came out in 2012. To be honest, the blog has been more successful than the book. At the heart of it is your comments, so much heartfelt sharing of joys, sorrows, successes and mistakes. You offer comfort to me and to one another. This has become a conversation, not just me talking into cyberspace.
You have been with me through my own pain and loss, including the death of my husband from Alzheimer’s Disease in 2011. You have supported me as I adapt to my new status as a widow, a new age group, and a new life on my own without the usual kids and grandkids to support me.
Of course I want to sell my books and draw attention to my writing through my blogs and other activities. That’s why most of us start blogs in the first place, but you have become precious to me, and I’m happy to be here as your big sister or Aunt Sue to listen to what you need to say. Most of you comment as “Anonymous.” That’s fine. I’m glad I can provide a private space to say what we might not be able to say anywhere else. I feel like I know you anyway.
I’d like to make this blog more interactive, maybe add some guest posts, feature more of you in the main blog. I welcome your suggestions. Meanwhile, I’m here. I may be moving, but I’m taking you with me.
Hugs,
Sue

Looking back at 2012 and ahead to 2013


Dear friends,
This is my last post of the year, so I feel compelled to offer some kind of wise analysis of the past year and guidance for the coming year. I wish I knew what to say.
For me, 2012 was a year when it became much easier to live with the loss of my dear husband, Fred. He died in April 2011. Soon I won’t be able to say he died “last year.” Attention from other people has dropped off. Several people who surprised me with Christmas gifts last year did not offer anything this year. I guess after a year, you’re supposed to be “over it.” But as with the grief of not having the children we wanted, the grief of losing a spouse never completely goes away. It just gets easier to live with. I find myself able to focus more on the happy times and less on the sad ones, to look at his picture and smile, and to enjoy the freedom of not having to coordinate my life with another human being’s. (The dog is another story.)
In 2012, I finally published Childless by Marriage, my book about not having children because one’s spouse couldn’t or didn’t want to have children. It started out as a journalistic/sociological study and turned into my own story, with lots of research included. The e-book came out on Mother’s Day, and the print version on July 7. In between the two versions, my stepchildren went ballistic over what I said about them. After many painful phone calls and emails, a revision followed. We don’t talk much anymore, and I feel bad about that. But Fred was the link between us, and he’s gone.
I’m writing a novel and a lot of poetry now, which shouldn’t make anybody mad at me. I’m still blogging here, as well as at Unleashed in Oregon . I’m also doing a lot of music, as much as I possibly can. I turned 60 this year, and I feel a strong need to do what I was sent here to do and not waste time on things that don’t feel right.
My dog Annie is almost five. Her favorite thing is to snuggle with me. I swear she likes it better than eating or going for a walk. I do feel like her mother and often call myself Mom. I don’t care if it sounds silly. I’m constantly watching out for her needs. This year, I’ve treated her four times for ear infections, and everyone at the vet’s office knows me well. My first thought when I have to go away is always: “Who will take care of Annie?” I raised her from a seven-week-old puppy, and she will always be my baby.
My friends are showing grandchild photos all over the place lately. Am I jealous? Yes. But more and more often these days, I’m finding myself feeling happy, thinking my life is good. I have my house, I have Annie, I have good friends, I have family even though they’re far away, I’m healthy, I live by the beach, and I get to do the work I love every day. I know it all could change at any minute, but for now, as Fred used to say all the time, life is good.
So what do I resolve for next year? To use every day as well as I can and thank God for my blessings. On the practical side, I hope to finally attend to several little problems that I’ve been putting off. But I’m not starting any new diets or anything like that.
Enough about me. What about you? What did you accomplish in 2012, and what do you hope to do in 2013? Will this be the year you finally make a decision about children or find peace with the decisions you have already made? Life is short. Look at the people who died last year from tragedy or illness who had no idea they wouldn’t be around for 2013.
My wish for you for the new year is to treasure each day and use it well. Love the people around you, including other people’s children. If something needs changing, stop putting it off.
I’d love to hear your comments.
God bless you all. Thank you for being here.

I’m a widow?

As you probably know by now, my husband, Fred, passed away April 23 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s hard to believe it has already been more than a month. I miss him every day, and if I don’t keep my mind busy, I flash back to scenes from our lives together, both good and bad. Much of the time, I’m fine, but at any minute something can trigger my emotions. Grief is like riding waves. Some are small, some are huge, and there are calm places between the waves.

Meanwhile I’m trying to grapple with my new identity as an unmarried woman, a widow. I have a hard time with that term. It feels like there’s an implied “pitiful” attached to the word “widow”. Know what I mean? In other places and other times, a woman without a husband might be poverty-stricken and homeless, but that’s not my situation, thank God. I just miss Fred.

As I reported earlier, his kids were here to help with the memorial service and that first week full of upheaval and out-of-town visitors. That was truly great. Now they have disappeared again. The oldest son got married, and I wasn’t there. Too far, too soon. The daughter is back to work, school and loving her kids and grandkids. The youngest, who was supposed to come pick up some of his father’s things, didn’t show up.

When I went back to the cemetery for the placement of Fred’s ashes in the mausoleum, I went alone. Then I sat in a chair stairing at the urn and cried alone. Even if they were my own children, I might have been alone because they don’t live here. It’s my choice to stay in Oregon. I can’t blame them for the distance or for being busy with their own lives.

Meanwhile, I have a wonderful group of friends who feel like a family. Some of them are widowed, too. Others let me join them with their husbands and children for holidays and special events. I think we all need to reach out to other people and bring them into our lives. Young or old, there’s no reason we can’t love someone, even if they’re not officially family.

Will I ever get married again? If so, might I take on a whole new set of stepchildren and stepgrandchildren? Do I want that? I don’t know. I don’t expect to find anyone as great as Fred was.

Now that the marriage has run to its death-do-us-part end, I ask myself if it was worth sacrificing my chance at motherhood. Probably. Most people don’t get a love like we had, and most people don’t get to do all the things I have been able to do as a childless woman. But if I had to do it over again, would I insist on having children? Yes, I would.

Peace to you all.