Dying for Some Company.
by Vicki Larson
I’m not one of those fatalistic people who are always thinking about their death. In fact, I rarely think about me dying. It’s an unpleasant subject, one I’d rather leave to the occasional nightmare, which I have, and, were I to be so inclined, to bad acid trips, which I don’t have.
But sometimes life wants to interrupt my feel-good party, like the e-mail I got at work a while ago. In a study taken by Senior Helpers, a provider of in-home care for the elderly, 70 percent of the adult children polled said they’d welcome having their mother move in with them. As for dad? Meh.
Since I’m a mom, I suppose I should feel somewhat relieved. But I can’t quite rest on those XX-chromosome laurels because the survey also revealed that daughters are much more likely than sons to move Mom in, as are children living in the Northeast and Southeast.
I have two sons and I live in California. Bummer for me.
As I wrestle with my own guilt and conflicted emotions over living on opposite coasts from my aging parents — knowing full well that I’m not being a really good role model for my kids, and my parents’ only grandkids — I am forced to face my suddenly depressing reality. As a divorced mom with no plans to marry again and no retirement nest egg to speak of, I wonder if I am I doomed to fending for myself during my sunset years.
It’s a question more and more people will likely be asking themselves given the changing landscape of the American family. In case you haven’t noticed, Ozzie and Harriet don’t live here anymore. With low birth rates, high divorce rates, a burgeoning population of single mothers — especially single mothers by choice — and about 60 percent of second marriages ending in divorces, “our families, our nation will soon confront a never-before-seen shift in how we die and whom we'll have around us when we do. And the likelihood is that on every level, we will be dying much more alone,” writes Elizabeth Marquardt in the Washington Post.
“Compared with the generations before them, these dying parents and parent figures will be far less likely to find comfort and help in the nearby presence of grown daughters and sons,” Marquardt says.
I’m not an empty-nester yet; my youngest has three years of high school ahead. But I’ll admit it — part of me has happily daydreamed about what it would be like to have total freedom again, not to mention a clean house that actually stays clean, once my two boys move out. Now I’m starting to think that I might not want to be so eager to have them leave. What’s wrong with boomerang kids anyway?
But it’s probably too late for me. With newspaper headlines last year screaming “Children of Divorce Care for Parents Less” based on a study by Temple University researcher and gerontologist Adam, my fate may be sealed. Davey found that children of divorce tend to be less involved in the daily care of aging parents, not necessarily because they don’t want to take care of them, but because they often live far away from each other.