Photo by Ruben Bagues on Unsplash
By Marilyn Pellini
It is quite common for a little girl to want to act like a fairy princess, wear frilly dresses, and play with dolls. Not for all little girls, though—this is true. Boys usually want to climb trees, build a treehouse, make anything possible into a gun, and in general be aggressive. Not so for all boys in the world, however. Some children like quiet play, board games, painting, crafts, and read voraciously. Others want strenuous outdoor activities and team sports. Many kids are interested in music and art, and special talents can be identified at a young age.
As kids grow up, they go off in many different directions. High school is an especially explorative time in all aspects of their lives. Before one knows what in the world has happened, our kids are off to college. Career choices loom on the horizon, and fortunately not everyone takes the same path. There are those who are successful from the moment they hit the job market. Others flounder and try a bit of this and a bit of that. It seems given, however, that they all want to succeed enough to sustain themselves in at least a modest status. Some hope to be extraordinarily successful, but sometimes are unwilling to put in the effort to accomplish their goal. Hard work, with a little push and the luck of being in the right place at the right time, is a big part of the mix.
When it comes time to pick a mate, naturally we don’t all pick the same person. Our husband or wife needs to be attractive to us, and must mesh well with our personality and our likes and dislikes. In this area of life I advised my own children to choose a mate that likes the same type of home, food, books, activities, has the same goals, etc., otherwise you will spend an awful lot of time apart. Then again, some couples like and enjoy being joined at the hip, while others relish their own space and own areas they excel in.
Some couples want to have children and can hardly wait for this blessed event. Others think long and hard before bringing a child into our complicated world, a child they have to care for and put first every ensuing moment of their lives. That is not to mention the cost of a child. It is not just the food they eat, their clothing, lessons, trips, and ultimately huge education bills, but so many hidden and sudden expenses. So this requires much forethought, consideration, and decision-making. With all that parenthood encompasses, many opt out of the plan to become a family. They want to concentrate on each other, themselves, work, travel, hobbies, etc. Being a parent for these people is not a natural progression, but a major involved and difficult decision. Who is to say what is right, wrong, or even natural.
The kids are starting to grow up, and the challenge of having teens is beginning to show on the married couple. Not always, but usually, the mom is the pushover while the dad digs in his heels and is the ultimate disciplinarian. My daughter’s very first boyfriend came to the house arriving with a red rose for her and a yellow one for me. I was so enchanted, as was my daughter. He was the catch of the senior class, handsome, smart, talented, and seemed mad about my lovely underclassmen daughter. I thought the gods were surely smiling down on her. But my husband commented, “He’s an operator.” Of course he did not say this to our daughter, but I was crestfallen, as I was totally in the kid’s corner. They did go together for a number of months, and when he went off to college he promised that he would bring her a sweatshirt from his school, which he did. Something went awry that weekend, and she had the strength of character to say goodbye. I have always wondered whatever became of him, but my strong daughter has become a pediatrician, married to a surgeon. He too operates, but in a whole different arena! His patients and hers are the lucky ones.
Even the place we choose to live in is not a straightforward decision. We may have been raised on the east coast, but find ourselves out west because of an enticing job offer. We opt to buy a house, but just what style home and its interior décor is not a given. Some like a colonial-type home, or a ranch, or even a craftsman. Some tend toward modern open interiors while others prefer partitioned-off rooms and even enjoy plush, thick carpeting as opposed to bare hardwood floors.
How we go about living our lives varies greatly. There are people who want and live the high life not thinking about tomorrow or old age. Others save and save and save, denying themselves the simple luxuries of life. They are fearful of having to be placed in a substandard nursing home because of a lack of money, and are very concerned with making sure they provide some inheritance for their children and grandchildren once they are departed.
Money is one area where arguments often ensue. If you and your partner are of the same mind, it makes planning for your long life together a joy rather than a battleground. Our likes and choices are easily tolerated when we only have ourselves to consider, but with a mate there is so much compromise needed in the blend. Money is such a big factor, and how and on what it is spent is often hard to negotiate.
Even when the end of our lifetime approaches, our needs and desires all differ. Again, what seems normal for one person is not the same plan for all others. Quite a deadly subject I’m certain you are thinking, but an inevitable one nonetheless. My husband and I had seen our children grow and leave the nest in the state we had been transplanted to, when one day out of the blue my husband said that when he “went” (we avoided the word “die” at all costs) he wanted to be buried in the state where we both grew up. I was horrified, as that was three hours away from our present home. I explained how doubly lonely that would be for me to not have him nearby. I wondered how I would ever bring flowers to his grave site and care for the plot. I was concerned because of the long ride to the cemetery and that I would not be able to go often and bring one of his fishing books and a chair to read to him. That convinced him of my devotion, and he said the choice could then be all mine. Unfortunately, he did precede me in death, and it was a total shock as he was not that old nor was he sick. His demise was due to a bizarre fishing accident. I did bury him back in our home state, as I knew that was really what he would have wanted. In a way it was probably better for me too, as I can go only occasionally to the cemetery, which has forced me to develop a new type of life.
What is natural and a likely progression for one person is often very dissimilar for another. After all, isn’t that what makes people and our world in general such an interesting, charming, vibrant, exciting place to spend our life? We just need to remember to live it to the fullest in a way that feels right for us, but does also take other’s feelings and plans into consideration too.
Marilyn Pellini has recently published a grief book entitled Dear Al, A Widow’s Struggles and Remembrances. It has been selling quite well. Her other credits as a writer include a recent article in Brick Magazine entitled “Memories in My Button Jar,” pieces in Westchester Parent Magazine, Bay State Parent Magazine, On The Water, Balanced Rock, and others which she would be happy to provide copies of upon request. In May of 2018, she took the first place prize in the N.Y. State Federation of Women’s Clubs writing contest.