“It’s not my responsibility to see that you are not alone on Christmas Day.” These words still swim in front of my eyes, as though the text message is a photograph stuck in my mind. Several weeks have passed since then, Christmas and New Year’s Day have come and gone and another year has begun. The dreaded coronavirus is still plaguing our country, but not nearly as badly as in other parts of the world. The past year has been testing for us all, but the single most significant thing affecting me are those words from my son – my youngest child.
That one small sentence came a few weeks before Christmas. I had been trying to make arrangements to have that one day with my family. My son, his partner and my two grandchildren are the most important wedge of my life. It had been six years since my son and I had sat together at my table for Christmas lunch, which was something we had always done previously. I knew that one day it would change and that his own family would come along and I would have to share. I was prepared for that, and even looked forward to it. What I did not foresee was nobody wanting to share Christmas with me and that – in the words of my adored son – it was not his responsibility.
When life gets in the way, or the family unit changes, you expect adjustments, I know. My entire life has been one big, constant adjustment. I was born in the 1950s, the eldest of five children, and the product of a dysfunctional family. My mother loved me but was too weak to come through the life her misogynistic, alcoholic, gambling husband (my father) had heaved on her without some sort of repercussions.
I do not see myself as a writer of anything clever, important or overly interesting, but I do write. I need to write. It helps me get through the days, weeks and months of “aloneness”. Is there such a word? I cannot say “lonely” as I am not always lonely, but I am almost always alone.
Until that sentence from my son, I never thought of myself as anybody’s responsibility. I certainly did not ever envision my son – or any of my children – thinking of me as a responsibility, and a responsibility they obviously do not want. I just thought I was loved. I am told there is a difference between loving someone and responsibility. I’m sure this is right. It never occurred to me that if you were loved you could also be looked upon as a responsibility nobody wanted.
I often think about what will happen to me when/if I’m ever unable to look after myself properly. Will I have to go to a nursing home? I have no wealth, so a fancy retirement is not in the cards. I am hell bent on not going to one of the many nursing homes always in the news for their bad treatment of residents. But – wherever I end up – it’s now obvious I will not have any family visitors to make sure I’m being treated properly. Nobody will visit. They do not visit now.
Your children go on to have families of their own and make a path for themselves, but does the path not have many tracks branching in all directions? Is this not what we were or should have been taught? I am sure I taught my children these lessons in life. I know I taught by example how easy it is to love. I loved those of my family who had little time for me – I still do. I never had to try to love my children. It just happened from the moment they were born.
It is sad to be thought of as a responsibility, and one nobody seems to want. I cannot imagine ever having that sort of responsibility. The love I feel for my children fills my heart to overflowing proportions. There is not one thing I would ever find too hard to do for them. If loving someone is a responsibility, I am happy to carry that responsibility to my grave.
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