I saw the Nick Cave documentary “One More Time with Feeling” at City Winery in NYC last night. It was yet another excellent “date” suggestion by my friend Sue (she always has the BEST ideas): a free showing (to those who made advance reservations, which she did, twice, just to be sure) of the recent film describing his creative process and how specifically the making of his most recent album, “Skeleton Tree”, was a way of dealing with his grief over the accidental death of his 15-year-old son Arthur. The film also featured his wife Susie Bick and his other son, Arthur’s twin Earl, as well as Nick’s long-time musical partner Warren Ellis. Nick Cave is one of my heroes and I believe he is a genius writer, composer and musician, so I would have fully appreciated the movie as a straightforward window into his creativity (much like his “20,000 Days on Earth,” which was a dramatization of a “typical” Nick Cave-ian day). But the pervasive undercurrent of pain and grief among the principals in the film made it heartbreaking as well as fascinating.
I cannot imagine the devastation of losing a child. I agonize over those stories on the evening newscasts – like the one last week about that monster who, in an uncontrollable road rage, fatally shot an accomplished young woman, days away from attending her college orientation, because she wouldn’t let him merge into her lane – where a parent, face swollen and red from days of non-stop weeping, can barely speak when confronted by the news crews asking about the horrifying and unexpected death of their beloved child, even days or weeks after their loss.
My daughter is so very precious to me. I never had any great desire to be a parent, and it pretty much took me the entirety of her nearly 22 years of life on earth so far to admit that I’ve done a good enough job raising her to not have caused her any noticeable damage. She has never been anything other than amazing to me, this passionate, caring, intelligent, funny and gorgeous young woman, everything I ever imagined or wished she would become. And her future is bright and exciting, although she’s not quite sure where she’s headed just yet. (I’m not worried – she’ll get there.) The possibility of her not being around anymore is beyond imagining.
My aforementioned friend Sue waited until later in life to have a child and her son, Jed, is the light of her life. I saw a recent photo of him from his 8th grade graduation ceremony and he looked so mature and confident. I knew she was somewhere in the background just gut-busting with pride. My daughter’s aunt had her first child just over a year ago, and judging by the barrage of Facebook photos (which I love seeing), she cannot get enough of her kid (and neither can her mom, Darian’s grandmother). A child who is wanted and beloved is a miracle in every way.
Sometimes I try to imagine life for my daughter after I’m gone (she’ll be pretty old by then, I hope). She says she doesn’t really want children of her own (just pets), but I remind her that it was never on my radar either until the day when, at age 35, I found out I was pregnant and figured, hey, I’ve been in a committed relationship for 6 years and my boyfriend had just suggested that we “do the right thing” and get married. (How romantic, right? My ex finally figured out my sense of romance after multiple incidents like this: He once sent me a dozen roses at my office for Valentine’s Day and I was furious at him for spending so much money.) If I don’t have a kid now, when (if ever)? Instinctively, it felt good to make the choice to go ahead with parenthood. (It almost goes without saying, to anyone who regularly reads this blog, that I am grateful that I had the choice, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that my daughter and her potential daughters and every other daughter always have that choice as well.)
My pregnancy itself was pretty painless, until about a month before my due date when I developed preeclampsia and my doctor put me in the hospital for a couple of days just to get my blood pressure under control. Eventually, the toxemia, plus the baby being over 9 pounds, led to me being induced, which failed miserably, and then a C-section, so I never even went through labor. In retrospect, having my daughter was the best decision I ever made.
But let’s say she DOES decide to have a child or perhaps two. (I never understand anyone who wants more than two kids. One is perfect, but two is okay, especially if there’s one of each gender, so they can keep each other company. I had a friend who, in her forties, after a number of failed pregnancies, gave birth to boy and girl twins, healthy and perfect in every way. And yet she wanted to risk having ANOTHER child, at her advanced age. That was something I just couldn’t comprehend, but it’s a free country (so far), and people should be able to have as many children as they want, as long as they have the means to properly take care of them. Her third child turned out just fine, by the way.) Would Darian and her kids (and perhaps a father/husband) live in this house, our renovated bungalow here at the beach? She made me promise I wouldn’t sell it, but the big questions is: Will this house survive global warming? Now that it’s been “flood-proofed”, it has a better chance, but if sea levels rise to the point where the Long Beach barrier island goes underwater, EVERTHING will be gone, flood-proofing be damned.
I saw an AARP article the other day that talked about how the number of people living to be 100 will increase 12 times by 2060. [Jo Ann Jenkins, “Live to 100. Plan on It,” AARP.org, 5/2/17, http://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/info-2017/jeanne-calment-plan-to-live-to-100-jj.html] In 2060, I would be counted among that number. I think I would like that, as long as I wasn’t decrepit and/or demented. I clearly ought to start taking better care of myself!
And yet I fear for our planet, for the human race. It seems that the people with the loudest voices and the deepest pockets (despite not having the largest numbers) are hell-bent on destroying Earth and all the creatures who call it home. I have always believed that our creator set our species, the most advanced on the planet, on this grand experiment to exponentially evolve and advance, to get not only smarter but also more altruistic and cooperative (see “Aliens & Altruism, 7/29/15, for an earlier take on this topic), but it could just as easily be that we were designed to self-destruct at or before some random “expiration date.”. If that does happen, would it be during my lifetime? My daughter’s? The lifetimes of my daughter’s children, or their children?
What did our grandparents and great-grandparents (and beyond) think about this topic? I mean, my great-grandmother (who lived to 102) was born in the late 1800s, before telephones and electricity and air travel, let alone computers and thousand-channel streaming TV. I’ve never been a huge science fiction fan but it certainly is intriguing to project into the future, to wonder what human beings might be capable of, both good and bad. For the sake of our children and (potential) grandchildren, I certainly hope it’s the former.