A while back, I blogged about the single life. In a nutshell, I talked about how I had come to accept my status as a single guy, and that actually finding someone to date and settle down with had actually become low on my priority list. I enjoy my life, with or without someone "special" to share it with.
Later on, I blogged again about the topic, occasioned by a good friend's wedding. In that post, I scoffed at the notion that I -- or really anyone, for that matter -- needed a second person to complement us, to pick us up when we fall, to prop us up when we lack the strength to stand.
I recently had occasion to re-examine my thoughts on these.
And I've reached a slightly modified conclusion.
First, don't get me wrong: I am still single, I still enjoy being single, and I am by no means desperate to find someone to relieve me of my singledom. I still cling fast to the "if it happens, it happens" mantra and refuse to approach life as a one-track minded quest for personal partnership.
Nonetheless, my recent trip home, and my mother's exhortations (spoken truly from the heart) have managed to really pierce me hard-headed mindset.
I went back home for a week recently to be with my family because my mother had been experiencing significant pain in her back for the better part of a year. Finally, she went in for surgery to help her relieve the pain. Back surgery for a woman of my mother's age can be a big deal, and recovery an even bigger deal, so I returned home to spend some time with her. Not that I could really help much (I wasn't lifting her out of bed or anything), but I think my just being there made her happier and thus helped just a little bit in her recovery.
She was in the hospital for a few days after I arrived, first with a morphine drip, then with heavy doses of oxycontin and percoset. (I was tempted to steal a pill or two, but thought better of it.) Walking around was quite difficult for her, even with a walker. Her physical therapy treatments involved ensuring that she walked whenever she could, including the part about getting in and out of bed by herself. If you had to watch her do this, I assure you, it was no easy feat for her.
By the time she got home, she had markedly improved, but she still experienced some pain when moving around, and it's clear that she won't be running marathons anytime soon. But another part about my visit home was just to be at home during the day for those first few days in case she needed me.
One afternoon, as I was preparing some lunch for her while she sat on a stiff-backed chair in the living room, she said to me with all seriousness: "You really still don't have a girlfriend? Really, you need to find someone and settle down. If you should ever wind up like me, who's going to help you? You need to have someone around to help you in times like these."
(In case you're late to this blog, be advised that I have not come out to my parents, who still hold out the hope that one day I will meet a nice girl, get married, and have children. My poor, poor parents....)
Normally I pay little heed to what my mother says. But having seen her all week, struggling through such simple tasks as getting out of bed and walking to the bathroom, I realized she wasn't 100% wrong. What would happen to me if I were to suffer some kind of misfortune?
Spouses or other significant others kind of, by default, are expected to take care of you when you're sick, or when you're recovering from a major surgery. What happens when you don't have one? I'm not the kind of guy who feels comfortable burdening his friends. In fact, the last time I had any surgery at all, I felt bad begging friends to come over and just help me. An excerpt from a 2004 entry:
But the panic attack really started to hit me when I realized that I would be completely unable to feed myself if I got hungry and Tracy wasn't around. How would I be able to find something in the fridge? How would I prepare it? Suddenly, even something as mundane as a peanut butter sandwich, or a frozen pizza, or even a friggin' frozen tv dinner, would become a tremendous effort, involving lots of navigation that I would have taken for granted on any other occasion.
I think not being able to care for myself has quickly become my greatest phobia in life.
So what's a single guy to do? I have no answers, only generalized anxieties.
PS: Leave it to me to take a life event like my mother's back surgery and turn it into a "me" moment. In case you're interested, my mom was doing fine by the time I left; her pain had started to subside and she was able to scale back on her pain meds. She still needs a walker to move around, and probably will still need it for a few months, but she seems okay. And my sister-in-law took her to her follow-up appointment and reported that all seems decent.