Childfree Wisdom and Resilience in Later Life

Paula is on far left

I recently attended a “celebration of life” service for my friend Paula’s partner. Paula is my 70+ year old childfree friend I met through our mutual interest in art deco. She has very little family, and have to admit I wondered now that the love of her life Bill had died, how she’ll fare being alone.  Then an interesting number of things came my way.

In my email inbox there was the link to Lori Bradley, BellaOnline’s Married No Kids column writer’s latest piece.

She recently interviewed Cara, a childfree widow about losing her spouse and how she has continued to create a full life for herself. Cara also spoke to what we all likely think about at one point or another:  “Do I fear becoming infirm, dependent, and unable to care for myself? You bet. ”

Then she goes on: “But knowing my nature, if I had a child, I’d never want to burden them with the expectation (much less the demand) that they take care of me. That is why it’s important to plan financially so that, hopefully, in such an event, I will be able to hire the help I need. Or move willingly into assisted living; there are some pleasant facilities, and will be even more as the boomers, like myself, age. And one thing I won’t be doing: complaining to everyone “my kids never come to see me.”

I also by complete accident landed on a piece done on the childfree ezine, unscripted.net.  I was re-moved by this piece I posted it on blogher. Kathleen O’Connor writes about her 97 year old childfree friend Libby, her life, and most notably how “Her last years and days were an illumination of why children aren’t necessary for a happy, cared-for old age.”

Then I happened to be watching PBS NewsHour,  and there was the prolific writer, childfree Joyce Carol Oates.  In her 70s, she lost her husband of 48 years a couple of years ago, and has just released a memoir, A Widow’s Story, where she shares her widowhood journey and coming out the other side and forward in her life.

So back to Paula. I took her out to a local film noir festival, and had dinner with her.  With Cara, Libby and Joyce Carl in mind, I looked at Paula intently–how is she doing, I thought. She spoke of Bill, and somehow began telling me stories of her past she’d never shared before. What a life she’s had. She has traveled the world and one place she has left to go is the antarctic. She brought it up, and said she just did not want to go alone…but then something came over her, and she retracted and said, Well, I’m not going to let that stop me. Right here right now, I have decided I am going to the antarctic.  I didn’t doubt it, but did not expect to talk to her two days later saying she bought her ticket.

Like Cara, Libby, and Joyce Carol have done for others, Paula has shown me such wisdom and resilience in one’s later years.  I re-vowed to myself that when I am a widow, I will model the same.

Who is the oldest childfree person you know? What have you learned from him/her?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *