A couple of months ago, I was having a conversation with a friend who never had children. It was probably rude of me to ask*, but I asked him whether he and his wife were childfree by choice or childless by nature. The reason I asked is that I’m trying to begin to see what a life without children will look like. While we do still plan to adopt an older child once we buy a home later this year, we all know how well my plans for parenthood have worked out thus far. So I need a backup plan.
This friend of mine replied that he and his wife were childfree by choice. As soon as he said it, I started, in my head, to dismiss the conversation. After all, the experiences of the childfree aren’t the same as the experiences of the childless. The childfree are happy with not having children, while those of us who are childless aren’t. Right?
Well, no, not exactly. Because as soon as I started thinking of moving on to other topics, he said, “But I’ll tell you, we’re really regretting the hell out of it now.” I’d found a kindred spirit after all. Having found some common ground, we started talking about things people with children probably never think about. Things like “When we die, what will happen to our mementos? Who will remember the life we built together?” and also, inevitably, “Who’s going to wipe my ass when I’m old?”
My friend’s solution to this problem is to bribe his nieces and nephews. He told them all that whichever one of them wipes his ass when he’s old will get his entire estate. That’s a pretty good deal, because, as I understand it, his estate isn’t insignificant. I’m sure he could pay someone to perform such functions for him, but it’s nice to know family has your back. Or at least that they have your backside.
The more I thought about it, the more I began to think my friend is on to something. So on my recent visit to my mother’s in Georgia, I decided to spring the concept on my 11-year-old nephew, Miles. We don’t get to see each other very often, so I didn’t think it was appropriate to open with ass-wiping, but when the talk turned to what we’d like done with us after we die**, it seemed like a natural opening.
“Well,” I told him, “When I die, I want to be cremated and then have the ashes turned into a diamond. They can do that, you know.”
He was suitably impressed.
“Yeah, a diamond. And then I want them to make me into an engagement ring and you can give it to your fiancée when you decide to get married.”
This took him aback a little. He asked, understandably, why he would want to give his fiancée a ring made out of me instead of out of his own mother.
“Because,” I said. “Because, I’ll put it in my will that if you do that, you’ll get everything. My money, cars, jewelry, house, all of it.”
Not to be left out, Scott added that he wanted to be made into pencils. They can do that, you know. And he wanted Miles to use him to take his SAT if Uncle Scott died before it was time to take the exam. We eventually decided this plan wouldn’t work, because we’re pretty sure you can’t have your ashes made into number 2 pencils. We wouldn’t want the kid to fail just because Uncle Scott turned into the wrong kind of pencil.
But back to the engagement ring, Miles jumped on board once I brought up the will, so I think we’re good to go on that. He did express one tiny reservation, however. What would happen, he wanted to know, if he and his wife ever broke up? I told him he’d have to insist she take his Aunt Kim off her finger and give me back. He decided it would have to be in the pre-nup.
Maybe next time we can talk about how he and his wife are going to have to take care of me in my dotage in order to get that diamond.
*But if you can’t speak to your friends about this stuff, who can you speak to about it?
**It may sound a weird thing to have come up with an 11-year-old, but my family is nothing if not weird. In most families, such topics might seem grisly, but we’re talking about a kid who, along with his sister Marley, was in a low-budget zombie movie. This is a kid who sees movies like this with his dad. Topics like this are the norm.