How My Grown Children and I (Separately) Enjoy Summer
While I write this during a fine June weekend in 2017, my son is getting ready to set off with friends to the San Juan Islands near his wooded, waterfront property on Washington State’s Puget Sound. His agenda will involve his favorite watersports including kayaking, kneeboarding, and wakeboarding. As for my daughter and her husband, they are already headed out with their two young sons (my precious grandsons!) for a weeklong camping trip to Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada Mountains not far from their home in Utah.
Me? I’m single now (my ex-husband died some time ago) and still happily ensconced in New York City where my children were born. My plans involve a lazy Saturday in my Upper West Side apartment in Manhattan, catching up on reading and then ordering in Chinese. On Sunday I’ll be meeting a friend for a Broadway matinée. He’s treating me because he wants to celebrate some recent good news I got regarding a health scare that turned out to be nothing!
The clear divergence in my activities and my children’s probably stems from the fact that I always told my son and daughter to follow their own stars. They definitely did exactly that! When they were growing up, we took them to Broadway shows and ballet performances and museums and out to dinner. They currently do enjoy those activities on occasion, but they gravitated to outdoorsy lifestyles that hold no interest for me at all! Back in 2012, I wrote in a thirdAGE blog this passage: “Because of my penchant for avoiding the ‘great outdoors,’ somebody once wisecracked that my idea of roughing it is a sidewalk café. Not true. My idea of roughing it is a table near the window so I can look out at the sidewalk café. Whenever I sit at a café in the city, the noise and fumes spoil my meal, not to mention the conversation. And a sidewalk café in resort towns invariably involves flies and bees.”
My point is that in the same way that I’m immeasurably glad my children have grown up to live in ways that make them happy, I’m also delighted that I get to live in a way that makes me happy. We see each other once or twice a year, but the rest of the time we Skype and text to stay in touch. I do wish I could be with my grandsons more often, although I envision a time when they might turn the tables and decide that NYC is where they want to settle down. In fact when the older boy was seven and visiting me in my studio apartment (the NYC realtor euphemism for one room with a kitchenette and a bathroom), Shaler said, “Nana, I like it here in New York City! I loved going to the Museum of Natural History and the ballet and eating at the restaurant! Maybe when I grow up I could get a room in your hotel so we could be neighbors.” I’m all for that! In the meantime, though, I’m thrilled to hear about my family’s far-flung adventures even as I revel in my own version of leisure fun.
I know that loneliness is a true heartache for many people when they age, yet I am fortunate not to be plagued with that problem. I meant it when I said my children should follow their own stars, and I’m pleased that they did. I’m not being smug or foolish. I’ve been paying for just-in-case long term care insurance for many years. I love what I do so I hope I’ll never have to retire, but I’m mindful of my finances.
I’m also satisfied with just seeing images in text messages of my son kayaking down a waterfall, my daughter and son-in-law setting up a tent, and my grandsons eating s’mores. I’m content to be a city dweller who ventures once in a while to Central Park but mostly relishes the legion of NYC indoor attractions such as museums and theaters and ethnic restaurants in abundance. Especially because I got the aforementioned good news about a health scare that wasn’t serious after all, I’m anticipating the next few months with gusto. I will pursue the pleasures of the Big Apple while my family members engage in their own favorite ways to make the most of summer. My children and I went through some tough times emotionally and financially during and after the divorce, but we came through strong and optimistic. Distance and different lifestyles can never sever our bonds of love. My wish is that you and yours, whether together or apart, will be able to savor the season in your own ways as well.
Sondra Forsyth in Co-Editor-in-Chief of thirdAGE.com.