The decision to have children is, to many and perhaps most people, no more a decision than is growing hair. It is viewed as the inevitable outcome of maturation; the natural process of replenishing and enlarging the herd. Contravening the process is as deviant as plucking every follicle in one’s head and filling the void with a chemical to induce alopecia.

On the contrary, the decision NOT to have children often involves making irreversible judgments after engaging in long, deep, and difficult thought. The hair analogy really does not quite reach the level of gravity involved; deciding against having children is more like opting to remove a limb. Obviously, one can choose to “correct” that decision with a prosthesis. The closest thing to it, with regard to children, is adoption; but after deciding against having children, I suspect agencies are not likely to permit adoption. That is not so in cases of infertility, etc. Once the decision is made and confirmed by vasectomy or other such procedure, the permanence of the choice is pretty much set in stone. But, I know very few people who, after having made the decision, wished they could reverse it. It’s simply the right decision for those who make it, despite the fact that some of them have the occasional and short-lived regret that there will be no grandchildren and no one to care for them in old age.

I have never regretted our decision against having children, aside from the very, very, very occasional (read that as “rare as ten-carat diamonds”) tinge. I’m happy to have a niece and nephews. But I think I would have made a miserable father. I would have resented the time and money and emotions I would have had to spend on children. Selfishness is a very good sign that opting to have children is a bad, bad choice. Maybe, though, all of this is on my mind right now because I’m coming to grips with the fact that I’m an old man and I’m alone. When the time inevitably comes when I grow weak and feeble and unable to look after myself, my options will be extremely limited. A civil, humane society would provide resources to peacefully and painlessly bring a lifetime to an end. Instead, our society  turns us into criminals who may have to illicitly assemble tools of compassion.


I finished watching my Danish series, Warrior, last night. It got better as the series developed. Or my criticism weakened. Or I finally gave in to the idea that I do not really require high art in my entertainment. Sometimes, simple stuff that doesn’t pass the “willing suspension of disbelief” test is perfectly fine. But I draw the line on mindless slapstick. Usually. I don’t know what I want to watch next. If anything. I may have temporarily tired of the television screen and books and computer monitors and magazines. I may have tired of everything. Almost everything seems artificial. Relationships of all kinds are brittle replicas of reality so fragile they break into pieces when touched by frayed nerve endings. Life is not like a police drama in which a crime is committed, the criminal is caught and tried, and the future is successfully sealed in a half-hour episode.


Yesterday was a good day. It should have left me with a platform upon which to build an excellent weekend. But in spite of positives, I’m sitting on a mat of shredded, decaying leaves loosely tethered by thin vines to the edges of a canyon fifty yards to either side. A thousand feet below me, a surly river rushes between jagged rocks and broken ledges. I’m bound, hand and foot, with barbed wire. And my nose itches.


I’m scheduled to meet Bob this morning. Bob is a Mountain Cur mix, the Village Animal Welfare League says. Bigger than I was hoping to find, but apparently a nice temperament. We’ll see. Bob may require more exercise than I am able or willing to provide. And they tell me he insists on lolling about on the furniture. But, still. We’ll see, as I said. Over and over and over again.


The backstory is too long to tell here. I received a multi-page handwritten letter from a young woman (as in 40+) yesterday afternoon. She’s a Facebook friend by way of my sister-in-law. Though we only barely know each other (I met her in person once and I’ve exchanged short messages with her…maybe twice). At any rate, the letter was a delight to receive, despite the fact that it revealed displeasure with her life at the moment. If I could write legibly, I would write a handwritten letter back to her; but I hope she’s satisfied with a typed letter. Her letter to me is part of a project she’s launched to write handwritten letters to people who are willing to receive them (I think to prompt her to get back in the habit of doing what she used to do).


I’ve arranged to borrow a telescope from the library next Tuesday. The weather forecast calls for clouds and rain for the remainder of next week, so the telescope probably will sit, unused, for several days. The first day when sunny skies are forecast is Thursday, March 18. The forecast may change between now and then, of course.  But on March 15, I will participate in a Zoom educational program about dark night skies; I hope to learn enough about night sky viewing to know at least a little about what I’ll seen through the telescope.


Time for breakfast. I’m hungry for something, but I don’t know what.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to Moody

  1. Cindy Perez says:

    There is no guarantee that children or grandchildren will be there for you when you are lonely. I know that I have not been there for my parents when they felt abandoned by our decision to move to HSV. Our son stays very connected to us but has no ability to alleviate the loneliness we feel during this pandemic. He was the product of our Catholic upbringing, not questioning whether or not to become parents.
    I’m thankful we had a son out of ignorance. Alex quickly decided that one was enough, even though he said he wanted five when we got married. We thoroughly enjoy getting together with him and the two grandchildren he produced for our entertainment. I guess they fill some need for immortality, but I believe it’s more like a connectedness that can be gained by a purposeful life as well. I know my life would be much different without having a child. I have no way of judging if it would be less without, though that is what I believe for myself.

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