Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The wish for siblings

When we go hiking, Geoff likes to talk. There are times when I would rather hike silently and just enjoy nature's sounds, but knowing that it could be different (ie: Rob & Schuyler) and that there will come a time in his life when he isn't going to tell me a single damn thing, I treasure these moments. It is often an opportunity for me to listen to him share his rather deep desires and thoughts. Sunday was one of those days.

We took the dogs on a long walk with a Geocache in the middle. On the way to the cache, Geoff told me the following (I wish I had a tape recorder, because my memory does not hold verbatim what he had to say, but more of an overview with details):

I'm pretty happy with my life. There are only a few things that I wish were different.

First, I wish I had a lot more money, or that our family had a lot more money. If we had more money you wouldn't have to work, and you could do stuff at school like the other kids' moms. Second, I wish that we lived a little further south, like maybe Delaware or Maryland or something. Third, I wish I had more pets. I mean, I like the pets I have. I've got three good dogs, a guinea pig, and my own gold fish, and then dad has his nice fish which are kind of my pets. But I wish I had some more. Like maybe another dog, and another guinea pig, a bird or two, and a lizard, and more fish because my fish is lonely.

And finally, I wish I had more siblings.

That last comment was new to me and took me by surprise.

I knew about his desire for us to be filthy rich so we could own an RV and I wouldn't have to work and we could go camping every weekend for more than Saturday and Sunday... like a five day weekend every weekend.

I knew he wanted to live south of New Jersey. He seems to think that the country opens up and it is easier to get west, south, and north from Maryland instead of having to take three or four extra hours just to get out of the Boston States to get going. He's right... we are a little remote up here in the far corner but it could be worse. We could live Down East.

He has been begging for more pets for months now. Especially a lizard and some birds. We'll see. I don't know how I feel about bringing more fauna into our house. He does a good job with his responsibilities, but I think we're close to the threshold of pet population here. The mouse experience and thoughts that went through my head at that time kind of convinced me that it was all for the better that the little guy passed away.

But more siblings? This is new. So I asked him why he would want more siblings. And I honestly think he's been stewing on this one for a long time, putting together his thoughts and reasons.

Sometimes he kind of comes off like Randy on "My Name Is Earl." If you watch the show, you know the reference.

Well, if I had more siblings, I'd have more nieces and nephews when I grow up. Jess is getting older, and she's my only sister. And I don't think that she'll ever get married. She hasn't even had a boyfriend yet and all her other friends have boyfriends or have a bunch of boyfriends. And even if she does get married, I don't know that she'll be able to give me the amount of nieces and nephews that I want. I want a lot of nieces and nephews. I want a lot of them so that my kids have a lot of cousins. So I think if I had at least two more siblings, then my kids would have a good chance at getting more cousins, and I'd have more nieces and nephews.

How do you respond to this? Seriously. I see his logic, but he doesn't see the reality of what it would mean to have more siblings. Especially at age 10 and almost a half. More siblings now means that he'll be getting married before they get out of elementary school. More siblings now means that I'll have less time to focus on his needs because I'll be caring for a baby.

It is almost like talking a little kid out of getting a puppy. "Oh honey, that baby will cry in the night and wake us all up and we'll all be miserable for months and months. Not to mention that it freaking HURTS to have a baby and I don't know if I want to do THAT again. And adopting a baby means you'll be 20 by the time it even shows UP here... and on your first point of us not being filthy rich... well. That kind of precludes us from being able to afford an adoption. Sorry honey. We can't get that baby you want..."

We talked extensively about the cons (my view) of bringing more siblings into the family. And he had a counterpoint, very clearly thought out and planned counterpoint, to every reason for "no" that I brought up. Except for the me having a baby and it hurting and that sucks and I don't want to do that at 41.

In the end, what I think it is, is that he's really lonely. Jessica doesn't play with him willingly. She's rather cruel and mean to him. And I just think that he's looking at his life and feeling rather by himself. More pets would make that hurt less, perhaps. But what would fix things up really good in his little heart of hearts would be a brother or a sister that he could love more than Jess loves him.

Do you know how much this breaks my heart?

That I take the time to provide for him all the things he needs, that I'm his advocate and advisor, that I adore him and lift him up every chance I get -- and the one thing that will make him happy is the one thing I'm not going to give him. Ever.

There is something else that goes hand in hand with more siblings, and this is the reason for this entry. Funny how life ties so many things together.

Last week, my Aunt Mary died. She was my dad's sister, the youngest of a pantload of kids. Huge Irish Catholic Family... textbook almost. Margie, Bart, Jimmy, Buddy, Herbie, Esther and Mary.

That's a lot of siblings... and from Geoff's viewpoint, that means a lot of cousins and nieces and nephews.

It didn't work out that way after several years. The typical dysfunctions of Irish family infighting, fueled by my mom so hating everyone in his family, my grandmother dying when I was around Geoff's age, aunts and uncles divorcing, led to all of us falling way apart.

My aunt Esther moved in next door to my parents when I was in college, so it was nice to see her once in a while and that proximity reopened familial connections... especially for my sister. But I was already gone. Away. College. Never to return.

When Doug and I got married, my Aunt Mary was the only one that I invited to the wedding. I didn't invite Jimmy, Herbie (no one knew where he was), Esther, Margie, or Buddy. I didn't invite cousins. It was all my mother's side of the family, which is okay when you're paying based on headcount but it also sucks because there was a missing contingent that we would have, should have, had there.

I'm glad Mary was there though. And I have a picture to prove it.

I saw her once since the wedding. Basically, in the past 16 years her life trainwrecked and there was a lot of chaos and sadness. She and her boyfriend moved to Florida, mostly to get her out of our hometown and away from drugs and alcohol. But the damage was done.

Mary died last Monday. Not unexpectedly, but certainly as the "baby" of the clan I am sure the weight of outlasting is heavy on all her siblings' hearts.


This brings me back around to Geoff's desire.

In the past 15 years, my dad has lost three of his. One by one. Jimmy died when Jess was about 4 months old. Buddy died last year. Now, my dad has lost his baby sister. Each one takes a slice of his heart with him. And while I am personally surprised he's lasted this long, I realize the burden that one carries when one is "lucky" enough to outlive one's siblings.

Something I didn't impress upon Geoff when bringing up arguments against more siblings was -- the more there are, the more likely you will be burying them, one by one. Until only one of you is left. And I don't know if that is something that you want to consider, but I know for my dad -- it sucks.

Geoff won't understand that at age 10. Looking forward to age 66 when he is losing those around him one by one, this child who does not deal with change well, this child who has a hard time coping with anxiety when we get a new car and trade in the old one, this may not be something he'll want to deal with as an adult.

Perhaps only one sibling is better. Going through this over and over, and still having three more of them to look forward to losing (unless he goes before them) has to wear at one's heart. Only going through it once may be better.

But to be honest... I think it may not.

Like Geoff, I only have one sibling. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose my baby sister... Instead of taking a tiny slice of my heart with her should she predecease me, she'll take quite a chunk. I didn't have to spread that love around over 7 or 9 or 11 kids... it's all hers.

Aside from my parents and my husband and children -- that's it. That's it.

This Saturday we'll go to NY to have a small memorial service for my Aunt Mary... I've got the dog sitter lined up and the hotel booked. I wasn't very close to my Aunt over the last two decades. I'm mostly going for my dad. And maybe I'll see a cousin or two that I haven't seen since I left town at age 17.

And I'm going for my sister. The one sibling. The one is good enough for me. And maybe someday my son and his sister will have a closer relationship, and he'll get it -- why she's the only one there to provide nieces and nephews for him.

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