7A Tasks of Life
November 24, 2007
The story of my aunt Henriette is not fiction. It is ongoing in real time. I don’t know how it will turn out. I will keep you posted on what is happening. Based on how things have gone so far, I am not very optimistic.
In the meantime, I am contemplating what I consider the five tasks of life and how they have affected me and (though it’s a little presumptuous on my part), David Rochester.
The five tasks of life are:
- Journeying from being a child to being an adult
- Being a life partner
- Being a parent
- Making a living
- Journeying through the end of our life
Not everybody engages in all of these tasks. The first and last are required, though some people never really become adults. Some don’t survive the journey. Some just become large children.
Not everybody gets a life partner (what is often called a “romantic partner”). Some get many and never establish a successful relationship with one in particular. My father in law was married five times. (My wife’s mother was his first wife.) His fifth marriage turned out fairly successfully, though in the last year of their lives their lives and relationship unraveled.
Today my wife and I celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary. We will go out tonight to a restaurant (where we have never eaten before) on the island where we live.
Some people do not become parents. Sometimes they are unable to bear children. Some adopt children. My daughter can’t bear children. She has adopted her partner’s daughter and become a co-mom. She is taking great delight in the experience. It pleases me to see her happiness in this regard. Some people choose not to become parents. Sometimes they create children but are separated from them. I worked with a person once who told me that he had fathered a child, but the mother had moved to Alaska before it was born and he had never had any contact with the child.
When I was a small child, my aunt Rose, who could not herself bear children herself, took me in for a year. It’s quite possible she saved my sanity. When my daughter was a little girl she had two unrelated “aunts” who could not bear children but who were a marvelous influence on our child. Our granddaughter has at least one marvelous “aunt” as well. Her sperm donor plays a role like an uncle in her life.
Some of us make a very good living, though many of us are very unhappy in our careers. Some people do good work (in various senses) with or without making much money at it. Some spend their lives doing one career task; others move from one job to another throughout most of their lives. Some are born with a silver spoon in their mouths; some live as bums or derelicts.
Although I have been married for 42 years, and I seem to have a pretty relationship with my daughter, I have never had a “good” job. I figure two out of three ain’t bad. For that matter, I have never been a very “good” employee. Superficially, my current job looks like a good job, but at the moment, it’s a bad mess. I have about a year or so go to retirement, but I don’t know if I will make it that far.
I don’t know if there is such a thing as a “good death,” though probably some people live too long. Some people believe that humans have a soul that lives after death. I do not find that belief convincing or persuasive. When I was in my forties, I thought I would die soon of a heart attack. I actually had some mild panic attacks. I think this was a combination of knowing my father had died young of a heart attack. In part it was a reaction—I’m not sure what to call it—to my father dying a day after we had a fight where I had stood up to him for the first time in my life. In part it was because some blood pressure medication I was taking at the time had some unfortunate side effects.
In January, I will turn 64. I am quite surprised I lived that long. I can think of lots of things to complain about (and do frequently) but my life has turned out much better than I expected or had any right to expect.