More than a few unanswered questions

IMG_2890We had an interesting conversation at breakfast yesterday. Old friends Paul and Cheryl had met up with Rick and me in Powell River BC for a few days‘ exploration, and we were all relishing the Breakfast part of B&B existence. You may be amused by the familiarity of the threads of our discussion – except for the tragedy and frustration of it.

The conversation began as you might expect with compliments on the fine food served up by Yvonne, our hostess, and then drifted to the very social lifestyle of B&B proprietors. We found similarities with Rick and my Shedders’ co-housing arrangement, and that in turn led into co-housing communities that some of us had recently inspected, here on BC’s west coast.

From there, we fell smack into more dangerous territory. All these retirement communities, we lamented; where have all the children gone? Yvonne wondered why our children tend not to want to have children of their own. Did we do something wrong as parents, set a bad example?

Paul set us straight on that: it’s a world-wide trend. As soon as any country has access to the Pill, its birth rate plummets to below the two-for-two mark.

Cheryl speculated about China’s one-baby policy, and its imminent retraction – what will happen in the near future of this massively-populated country?

I conveyed my mother’s wish that she’d had six children instead of one remaining, especially when that one lives on the opposite side of the world. Six children would have given her a much better crack at being well-cared-for in her old age.

Rick offered a view that there is little chance that pension funds will be there 10-20 years from now, when we Boomers will really need them, and cited some American pension funds have already folded.

Paul reminded us that retirement was age 65 ’way back in the thirties when life expectancy was 62. What happens now that life expectancy is over 80?

The big question hung in the air: who will look after us when we get old? Who will drive us when our eyesight gives out? Who will keep us connected to the world, using new technologies and good devices? Who will provide hugs and hot chocolate and make sure we are eating fresh vegetables?

A hundred years ago, my great grandfather homesteaded to rural Alberta. He had little access to news of the world. His daughter-in-law received monthly letters from her sister in Minneapolis; every now and then someone might bring out a newspaper on a horse and buggy junket from Edmonton. What did he and his guests talk about over breakfast? What concerns did great-grandfather leave on the bedside table at night as he blew out his candle?

In my time, where my Nexus can tell me about a sparrow falling in Afghanistan, or Detroit, or anywhere, I know that my world is altered wherever that sparrow tumbles. What a lot of things I have to leave on the bedside table at night.

z_1a76f6b1At any rate, breakfast wasn’t the end of it. Since then the four of us have applied our brainpower to the deplorable state of the medical system and to the tsunamis that will result from the Big One. I am sorry to say we were unable to provide a single answer to a single important question. And now, like a dark plague, I spread these concerns to you.

But wait. Consider this:

IMG_2956After breakfast yesterday, we wandered into the most beautiful day you could imagine, drifting up to Desolation Sound on a chartered yacht. There was breathtaking scenery, a wonderful swim off the boat, a fine meal built around barbecued prawns, travel conversations with interesting boat-mates.

IMG_2959And this morning, I am watching a slow-moving log boom ply its way up the satin-smooth strait while I jot down thoughts for this blog post. Paul is running up and down the hillside below me, keeping his heart rate at a formidable level. Cheryl is off for a jog and Rick is having a tranquil sleep-in while the morning sun spills in through the slats on his shuttered windows.

The ease and rightness of it brings to mind Eve’s comment on my post last week, where you might recall I speculated about the traits of ideal housemates. This is what Eve had to say:

Hi Heather,

What impresses me the most about us ‘Shedders’ is the generous spirit that each one of us demonstrates. In a way, the points you’ve listed all arise out of this willingness to share: physical work, resources, our feelings, our foibles, our victories, and our love. We are blessed and don’t take it for granted.

xo E

And isn’t that spot on? We ARE blessed, and we are learning to trust to the abundance and generosity of the universe. I and the people around me have all been as thoughtful as we know how to be, and have put as much as we can in place to ease the world and our way in it. Sometimes it may not seem like enough, but, I ask myself, against what standard?

There may well be difficult challenges whispering restlessly all around us, but there are also hundreds of thousands of committed conversations, each making it more likely that solutions will happen, that the human race will successfully dance with the changes that confront us. We Shedders were having these conversations a dozen years ago and since then have worked hard to put together a lifestyle that addresses some of the key issues – at least, the ones we can get our hands on.

IMG_2947So who will look after us when we’re old? None of us in this world know exactly how it will unfold, but I do have trust in our goodwill, in our determination, and in the importance of appreciating the small things day-to-day.

We might just make it in the end.


8 thoughts on “More than a few unanswered questions

  1. The answer to your big question looks like opportunity for my generation… Gen X. We are right behind your youngest members and to me it seems the types of living and care you will want will look totally different than the living situations for “the greatest generation.” Lots to think about!

  2. “Like a dark plague”… of course that is my favorite line! Fabulous image. W/ every post, you are speaking so much of my thought process & reality that it is uncanny. Huge and unanswerable existential questions and ambivalent, changing emotions–you’ve painted a portrait of the human experience of life in all its incredible vicissitudes.
    “We might just make make it in the end.” Not sure what you were thinking, but my take: we will all die; the journey will end. I am trying to really accept that on the emotional level. Intellectually, it is easy. Currently, I am advocate and caretaker for my 88-year-old Dad, who is in end stage cancer, and 91-year-old Mom. Not full time caretaking, because they live in a retirement community, but lots of support is needed and time is very short.
    Oddly, although I am working hard to meet all needs on their behalf, I’m experiencing a mental parallel universe: I don’t really care much how I end up or who takes care of me. For now, it is enough to live happily in a supportive cohousehold, savoring a wonderfully privileged and rich life . As we age, it is reassuring to know that we 3 housemates can buy support services as a group that none could afford alone. Living in community, no one needs to take life’s final journeys alone.

  3. Pingback: Heather. 11 August 2013 | Celebration of Life

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