By COLLEEN LEDDY
I am running scared. In less than four months I turn 50. Significant milestones like that tend to make people take stock. I’ve never been much of a stock taker when it comes to my personal life. I’m more of a coaster than a planner.
Coasting has served me well over the years. I happily stayed home with my children for 10 solid years and then worked from home and in accessible in-town positions so I could be available to attend sporting and other school events, retrieve dirty uniforms at the drop of a hat, bake blueberry cake for after-school snacks, take trips to visit colleges in God-forsaken places, make dinners (or direct my kids in the making of dinner), and just be a physical presence in their lives, among other things.
But as I near 50 and realize that I have ridiculously expensive, but exceedingly shabby health insurance, few job benefits and an inadequate pension, I sort of wish I’d been the kind of person who had done some sort of stock taking back when I turned 25 and 30 and 40. Of course, there is no way I would have been that person; it’s foolhardy to even say it. Even as I coasted along, I made the choice—my children were the focus of life—and my husband encouraged and supported that choice.
OK, kids, it’s time for payback!
I’ve joked with them in recent years that they will have to take care of me when I am old. I’ve reminded them how good I was to them when they were little, and lamented that they don’t remember those selfless years I spent breastfeeding and responding to their every need, how I only ever spanked (barely) each of them once, how kind I was, how much I read to them and told them stories and took them to plays and the symphony, the zoo and the “beach” at Harrison Lake, art museums and COSI, and all sorts of other places.
It was an idle thought, payback; I was kidding. I didn’t really want them to be burdened by taking care of their parents.
And then I read an article in USA Weekend titled, “Should Grandma move in?”
“Yes, yes, yes!” I wrote in the margin and started to mail it off to Ben to read, with instructions to send it on to Rozee, with instructions for her to send it on to Maddie.
Before mailing it, I read the article again, underlining relevant sentences and making comments in vibrantly colored Sharpie markers.
“The national trend is for families to stay connected or reconnect instead of dispersing all over the country,” said John L. Graham, co-author of “Together Again: A creative guide to successful multigenerational living.”
“Don’t you want to be trendy?” I wrote in bright pink to the child in Miami and the child in Kentucky. The one in Ann Arbor is still within striking distance.
Among the reasons for the trend, Graham said, is a combination of rising life expectancies and dwindling pensions.
“I’ll die young, I promise,” I wrote in neon blue. “It’s Dad you have to worry about.” David’s grandmother lived to 103 and his parents are mere spring chickens in their mid-80s.
“Positive family dynamics are key to making it work,” says the article.
“We could play games all the time!” I point out enthusiastically.
This is just a joke. When my family is gathered together, I have to beg and cajole them to play games. They usually have no interest, especially in the game I invented, “You Don’t Know This About Me,” but they can often be swayed into playing a round or two of Catch Phrase. I wouldn’t really make them play games all the time, but, boy, just wait until the grandkids get here!
“Eventually, aging grandparents may need more assistance than you’re capable of providing. Talk about what you will do if that time comes,” advises the author of the article.
“This is when you take me out in the yard and shoot me,” I write in red, joking again.
Hmm, maybe I shouldn’t be giving them permission to do that. I might not make it to 50.