I have a very clear memory of the morning that our son Court’s father left for work following our baby’s birth. It was the first time I was left alone with my baby child. I remember the sound of the front door closing, and I recall that I looked down at Court’s sleeping face. As I gazed at him, I remember thinking, “What in the hell am I supposed to do now?” I had never been trained to be a mother. There were no lessons in caring for a newborn on television. The internet was 15 years away. Unlike adoptive parents — who go through a thorough and difficult vetting process before they are given adoptive rights — I plopped a human being out of my body into this world without any vetting at all. A hospital nurse wheeled Court and me out of the door, likely thinking you poor unsuspecting sucker, you have no idea what lies ahead.
And I really didn’t. My mother and father had spent a day with us, admiring their fourth grandchild, but left to go back home to Summit County that evening. I assume Mom figured I would be able to keep the child alive. After all, she had kept four children alive, and raised them to be pretty decent human beings. My babysitting experience wasn’t even with little babies. The youngest child I had ever taken care of was around 18 months. Shortly after that particular child’s parents walked out the door, leaving Little Richie with a 12-year-old neophyte, the baby pooped his pants. I am ashamed to say that Little Richie stayed in his poopy pants until the parents arrived home. Yes, following what was likely a romantic date night, Mommy and Daddy had to clean what was by then petrified poop from the baby’s butt.
And I’m in charge of a tiny baby boy. Go figure.
I think I can say I have similar feelings about growing old. No one is really prepared for all of the issues that come with aging. When you get married, you have a preconceived idea of how your life is going to unfold. There are lots of love and kisses and flowers and candy. Of course, there are lots of disagreements and life issues like overdrawn checkbooks or fender benders. But mostly, life is pretty simple.
What you don’t really prepare for, however, are the wrinkles in your face and forgetting where you put your keys that come as the years pass. And you certainly don’t prepare for things like bowel obstructions and Parkinson’s Disease.
Just like 42 years ago, when I looked down at Court’s beautiful face and wondered if I’m going to be able to keep him alive, I now look at Bill, and he looks at me, and we wonder if we are going to be able to care for one another as we grow old together.
Our marriage vows were to love one another for better and for worse, and we are both committed to keeping those vows. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.