When we first bought this house in 1988, Jack and Lorraine were our next door neighbors. They were a retired couple who had raised 5 children in our neighborhood. Now that they were retired, they had developed a pretty solid routine for themselves.
They did their fair share of traveling, and we always picked up their mail when they were gone. They returned the favor whenever we took our vacations. They were always friendly and helpful and yet we managed not to get too “close,” probably because of the age difference. We already had two sets of parents and really didn’t need a third.
Every summer they would get the pool ready for Memorial Day weekend. They had a four foot high, above ground, round pool. Every morning Jack would test the chemicals, add what was needed, run the filter and skim off the debris that the wind blew in overnight. By the afternoon, when the sun was at it’s peak, they would take a couple of quick dips in the pool. When they were done, they had their own little “happy hour” with cocktails. Then Jack would start up the grill to barbeque dinner. Lorraine was his “helper.” Lorraine brought out the meat and marinade. Jack would put it on the grill. Then there would be a series of “Lorraine, get me a fork.” Five minutes later, “Lorraine can you get me a knife.” “Lorraine, I need a plate.” “Lorraine, bring me the vegetables.” All the while Lorraine never complained, she just kept going in and out of the house bringing Jack whatever he needed. And when they were ready to sit down on their little deck and eat, he took all the credit for the meal. This went on night after night as long as the weather was good. If I had a dollar for every time Jack yelled out Lorraine’s name we could have paid off our mortgage in 5 years.
At the same time I envied them. They seem to have lived a full life, raised a large family, and were enjoying their retirement. It’s as it should be. Except for one thing; their children, all five of them, hardly ever managed to come over to visit. I only recall seeing them when it was Jack or Lorraine’s birthday, maybe Thanksgiving and Christmas. And, if I remember correctly, they all lived a relatively short distance away. I thought that was a shame. I went to see my parents every Sunday afternoon and we had dinner with them. Every other Saturday we spent the day with my in-laws. I wanted my children to know their grandparents. And they were the only grandchildren on both sides too. My girls were little angels and senior citizen friendly. They didn’t mess up anyone’s house, throw tantrums, run or scream. We always had very pleasant visits for many years. But Jack and Lorraine rarely got to see their children or their grandchildren and that bothered me. If it bothered them, they never said so.
Jack died a couple of years ago and Lorraine moved into a little condo nearby. I think of her being alone now. I’m not sure if her children visit her or not. I think probably not. I never saw a lot of affection in their family. Lorraine must be about 80 years old, if not older. After raising a houseful of kids and catering to her husband, who is going to be there for her at the end of her days? That’s not how it should be.
My mother had an old Italian saying that seems to fit. Translated it said: “Two parents can take care of 100 children, but 100 children cannot take care of two parents.” Something to think about.