The Mrs. and I want to simplify our lives.  We do that in many ways such as drying our clothes on a clothes line, having as large a vegetable garden as possible, making toys for the kids when practical and biking when we can.  Another more substantive way of simplifying would be to move to a farm.  On a farm we could grow more of our food, have chickens and other livestock and live more sustainably.  We have looked for a farm of 3 or more acres for over a year, but what we can afford is too remote.  We have two young children whom we don’t wish to home school so we need to be close enough to schools for daily trips to school to be logical and not fossil fuel intensive.  On the other hand those properties that are closer to towns are outrageously expensive.  We can’t pay $100,000 an acre!

We will continue to reduce our consumption, reuse and recycle what we can.

Another reason for a farm though was so that family and future extended family could live nearby.  I grew up in the Midwest and live in the west.  My parents and two siblings stayed in our hometown.  My parents to their credit encouraged me and my siblings to explore the world, go to college where we were able and to live where we could.  This meant that two of us never returned to live in the Midwest.  When I was younger that seemed okay to me, but it must have hurt my parents a little.

About ten years ago I began to call my parents on the telephone more.  I traveled to see them more often.  But that didn’t add up to much time with them.  Seven years ago I married Mrs. B.   I began to miss my parents more.  I wanted to share my new life with them and with my siblings.  Then we had our first child.  My parents flew out to see our daughter.  One of my most cherished memories of that visit is captured in a photograph.  My dad and Em are on the sofa.  She is in his lap.  Their eyes are locked.   My father is  cooing and making silly faces for her.  We all could tell that he loved her.  My father was ailing when he visited.  He had been on kidney dialysis for 15 years.

His body finally gave out less than a year later.   I was able to visit him when he was hospitalized.  But I had already returned home when he died.  I still feel his absence.  I wish that he were here to see my son.  I think that had he been in my life more constantly that the emptiness that I feel would be different.  I would know that we had lived full lives together, rather than having only intermittent visits and weekly chats on the phone.  Those aren’t the life experiences that stay with us.  Those are not life experiences that make us complete.  Activities shared and quiet days shared are what round out are lives.  One can only enjoy these if one lives in close proximity to loved ones.  We have traveled as a family to see my mom, so she has enjoyed Em and Zee.  But we have only our short visits,  Not really much for the kids to build memories upon.

I want my children to have the opportunity to live in close proximity to the Mrs. and I.  They may choose not to, that will be their choice.  But I want them to have the option.

What is important is family.  This realization was pressed home even more yesterday when my sister telephoned to say that mom was in the hospital.  She had an infection and been unconscious for up to 24 hours.  She lives in an apartment in a senior living complex.  But she may as well live entirely alone.  The residents don’t socialize much. She has outlived most of her friends.  My sister visits her every day and my brother calls or visits each day.  But for those interruptions my mom’s day would include nothing but television.   I can’t help but feel that when we place the elderly in these facilities that we are sending the majority of them somewhere to waste away.  People shouldn’t go this way.

If we are lucky we start our lives surrounded by family and friends,  We should work to see that particularly as people age they too have lives that are surrounded by family and friends.  Better still would be to be surrounded by family and friends throughout our entire lives.

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