Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Being an Only Child

Some people think it is great to be an only child because when we are younger, only children have the best toys, games and clothes. Because my birthday is near Christmas, my presents continued for weeks.

Some call only children selfish. I have been both selfish and self-absorbed. I never felt selfish when I was fortunate to be among any of my 15 first cousins, my friends or when I was with my grandparents in Marshfield. I often seek the company of others to avoid loneliness.

I was not always among friends, my cousins or with my grandparents. I did not know any better. My father was an only child, too. This is one reason why I am a father of two siblings. I loved becoming a step-father to three children. I still miss them.

My mother doted on me. I gradually became uncomfortable with her attention. She is a retired teacher. The whole world is currently made up of Kindergarten students no matter how old they are. I have heard her tell many new acquaintances how wonderful I was at three or four. As she ages, her memory problems become more acute. She seems not to remember that I drove her to Orlando every day when my Dad had two separate artery surgeries to head off stroke. He was concerned when stroke felled a neighbor and one of his uncles without killing them.

When he is well, he is her caretaker. As an only child, he holds grudges so white-knuckled that he nurtures resentments I might forgive. His dislikes how my mother has slid. He has disliked my first wife since 1984. Of my two sons, the one who looks like her could do nothing right. The one who looks like me could do nothing wrong. If my father passes away first, I will have to go to Florida to care for my mother and allow her to live her remaining days independently in their family home. I dislike the South.

There are many things that I buy that are like my grandparents in Marshfield and not like the things I associate with my parents as consumers. It is weird to be with my parents because their buying habits are still the same. My grandparents always had brown bread, crunchy peanut butter, strawberry jam and chocolate ice cream. My parents still buy white bread, creamy peanut butter, grape jelly and vanilla ice cream.

Now I chiefly see my cousins from the Twin Cities. Once in a while I see my cousins from Algoma or from California. Now I scan pictures others do not seem to possess because as an only child, I seem to have pictures of them as children my mother kept in albums.