Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Young Blood

"Who is going to take care of us?!"

My friend, Thomas, exclaimed this several months ago over a happy hour before karaoke. He said it half jokingly, but there was more than an element of cutting sincerity buried in the sentiment.

Thomas and I met 18 years ago when I was interning at what would be my first employer after college. He was a green news producer with a wee bit more newsroom experience under his belt. We had no idea we'd become such good friends over the years, celebrating weddings and births together, and later major career successes. Thomas and I even turned toward each other in a moment of deep grief a couple years ago, finding comfort in bonds that were cemented over bleats of a police scanner and cans of cheap Busch beer.

With some friendships, time can ebb and flow, but the connections remain as true and vibrant as they were in the good ol' days.

Today, we both have good jobs that belie our newsroom roots. Every so often we carve out some time to catch up, celebrate, and reminisce about a life that seems a world away.

During this months-ago happy hour, our conversation took a very nuanced tone. Most of the time we spin yarns about remember whens and whatever happened to so-and-so. We chuckle over tales about when we were young and poor and sometimes dumb asses.

But this time, we deeply measured what lies ahead for us over these next 40 or 50 years, and worried about how we singletons without children would make it through the rough times. Rough times come occasionally, measured with obituaries or doctor visits. But other times, they're counted in holidays without plans or celebratory occasions that pass with little fanfare.

Thomas and I both have strong social networks and great friends, but we wondered - who will come visit us on Christmas Day in the Old Folks Home when we're old and don't have children? Whose pictures will we hang on the refrigerator door?

He teased we needed to make friends with younger people - millennials who are 10 or more years our junior - so that we could at least count on cocktails with those younger, spry people in our golden years.

Most people have children for other reasons - the pride of raising a family, the love of seeing your genes in the next generation; crossing over to 40 has made me fiercely aware of the situation of elder care and the benefits of having kids.

This is the kind of thing I worry about - not whether my kid will get into a good college, or if my spouse will be healthy in our twilight years. I worry about how the choices I've made in my 20s and 30s will affect me in my 70s and 80s.

I have a dear friend with three sons. I believe those kids will come visit me when I'm in a nursing home, if for no other reason than to get a good story or two about their dad, who passed away in their youth. My niece and nephew might come visit, especially if they remain the beneficiaries of my assets.

My friends without children - we've talked before about how we're going to have to retire together to take care of each other. Aside from the benefits of communal living (nightly dinners together, activities like crafts and Cocktails 101), we'll be able to enhance our golden years by chipping in for an in-house masseuse, a pool boy, and maid/cook.

Okay, so maybe I won't have as many crayon-scrawled Picassos in my kitchen. But if Plan B allows me the jack to cover a maid and cook who will have homemade guacamole and a vodka martini ready for me at 4 pm, I think I'll make it just fine.

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