At 56, most of my friends are parents – a few, grandparents. For me, it wasn’t in the cards. In my 20s, I had testicular cancer – so, to insure the family line, I made a deposit, then married a few years later. But my wife was never keen on kids, and in truth, neither was I. Too selfish, perhaps? I had a classroom of kids every day and liked the quiet and calm at home.
In my late 30s, in a new and happier marriage, we were having the time of our lives, exploring the city – kidless. For a while, we flirted with the idea of fostering or adopting someone in need, but ultimately decided against it.
Now, recently retired, for the first time in over 32 years I won’t be surrounded by young people every day. Don’t get me wrong; I am thrilled about this new chapter, but I also wonder: will the decision not to have kids stir me more now? We will have no legacy, no grandkids to babysit, nobody to care for us when we’re old.
Unlike many of my friends, I don’t know what it’s like to raise a little person, to put my own wants and needs behind someone utterly dependent on me. I understand that selfless kind of love, but don’t know how it feels. It’s a big void in my life; I am missing out on something fundamental and basic, and as a result, I am less evolved and not as worldly as I could have been.
But, I accept this without regret.
The bond my wife and I share: it’s the most important thing in our lives. Our pets, they are our kids. I can’t say we love them any more than pet owners with human children, but for us, they’re everything.
And our friends, they too are our family, our legacy, the objects of our affection.
Our family, well, it’s just a different kind of family.
With a Perspective, I’m Pete Gavin.
Pete Gavin is a retired English teacher living in Sonoma County.