Sunday, January 15, 2006

More About Roads

So in addition to those unknown life paths of least resistance, there are those paths we will inexorably cross.

Death's for instance. And thanks to the Frost poem, it comforts me to now visualize death not as darkness, but as a trace in a woods that grows fainter and fainter until it's just the grass and slim pale tree trunks and underbrush again, generations of decaying fallen leaves untouched by consciousness and the presence of others, filled with a dim light that could be moments before nightfall or perhaps sunrise.

One road that I spy on the horizon of my travels--maybe you read about it too in the New York Times--the Daughter Track. The article profiled a 50-ish, unmarried, child-free woman who left her successful professional career to return home to care for aging parents. Though the spinster daughter is perhaps less common than it once was, this role seems to be more important than ever as families live farther apart, making sharing care for aging parents and spinster aunts amongst extended family members impossible, and health care costs rise. I know several women now who are their parents' primary care giver. So even if this is not one of the roads I end up treading, I'm trying to be mentally prepared. And though there will be challenges, I think I'll be happy to do it.

Financially prepared for such an eventuality is a whole other ball of wax. And this is where I'm truly concerned that the lotto-winner track will not be a fork that presents itself to me. How will I build my compound to house my various family members (not to mention the farm where I raise heirloom farm animals) if I don't have millions of dollars at my disposal?

Another thought, not so fully formed: Perhaps the Daughter Track is a factor in my choice of not becoming a parent myself. Without children, there are fewer parallel paths to negotiate, alternately widening and approaching as the milestones indicate. My powers of caring for both children and parents would be severely taxed as they begin to change places, the children stepping into adulthood, the parents simultaneously slipping back into infancy. No, no, that's not true. I know that if I wanted to have children, I would, damn the future paths. Because children are the insurance against walking the path of aged infirmity alone, aren't they?

M has a sister who doesn't anticipate having children either (though she's young and I suspect could be persuaded to change her mind), so perhaps I shouldn't worry about caring for my mother-in-law. His mother is caring for her own mother, mostly by herself, and she's still working full time. The sole help we've given her so far is recommending that she bring in some professional caregivers. I feel impotent with distance. Do men who have sisters think of these things? What is the Son Track like? Enjoyment of my parents and stepparents is one of my husband's attributes that I appreciate more with every passing year, in anticipation of the fact that we may be their primary caregivers. He may be interacting with them much more than he ever bargained for.

But that brings up another thought about paths and their bifurcations--is it our anticipation and preparation for them that makes them appear, or are they random acts and events?

What about those paths that we believe to be inevitable, but never materialize before us after all? The fame that we know is just a matter of time, just wait for the audience to find us? Or the true love that is lying in wait for that chance meeting, blossoming under the shelter of an umbrella offered by a strangely familiar stranger during a thunderstorm? How do those assumptions guide us through the years and then cause us to alter course when disappointment sets in and the long-awaited fork never appears? Or hold our feet fast to a path in desperation despite all evidence pointing to a better way?


Sang Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins, "A robin feathering his nest has very little time to rest while gathering his bits of twine and twigs." I've been listening to Julie's sweet trill in my head all weekend as M returns to his garage after various forays, carrying with him all manner of manly comforts. A radial arm saw from the sprawling Salvation Army compound north of town. A motorcycle excavated from a neighbor's garage. Plastic bags filled with foreign objects to fix up the latter "feather."

Thanks to the saw, other tools received as wedding gifts, and increased time on his hands, he has announced that I can now expect his handiwork to start finding its way into our home, not just adoring our outdoor environs. Witness his recent work, a shelter for Winklewisp and Pansy:

We still have some interior decorating to do for the gnome home.

I'm also looking forward to leisurely outings on the motorcycle together after M repairs it and practices solo a bit, a fantasy that enchanted me when we first started dating but was never realized since we didn't have the wheels. I admit that I'm a little more nervous about motorcycling after my car accident and thinking of the accident M's brother had a year and a half ago which resulted in his innards and several important joints becoming rearranged…but many years ago, M and I had a wonderful afternoon cruising through the Connecticut countryside on a borrowed bike, trees ablaze with fall colors. That feeling of freedom and togetherness has stayed with me as one of my favorite memories. Rex will be heartbroken, unfortunately, if we drive out without him.

I've been working on this post for a while, it's dark outside and cold inside, so if you could insert some clever association between motorcycles and roads taken (or not) here, I'd be very grateful.


Happy Birthday, Rachel!

It's also Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. M and I once heard one of his speeches broadcast in its entirety on NPR. What an incredible speaker he was. I think he could make me believe in God.


At 8:03 PM, January 15, 2006, Anonymous Michael said...

Yer awesome. I blogged ya. "Write like this always" -- John Burks, SFSU journalism professopr

At 10:09 PM, March 07, 2010, Blogger I LOVE YOU said...

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