A lot of people ask me what made me decide to become a dietitian. The story is kind of complicated, but to sum it up – I care about people. I have a big heart. So it made sense to me to work in health care in some way or another, and being a dietitian seemed to fit best.
I’ve gotten a variety of experiences on my way to becoming a dietitian and since. I’ve worked with pregnant and breast feeding mothers at WIC, overweight and under active children in middle school, people struggling with eating disorders and other mental health disorders, a wide variety of medical concerns at a large, inner-city hospital, and finally now with aging adults in a nursing home. Each one of these experiences has taught me something about life, and more importantly taught me something about myself.
Recently I started thinking about my final wishes. I know that sounds morbid, but I see death or people nearing death on a regular basis. Almost all of them had some sort of plan in place for how they want to live out their life, some didn’t. Some deaths I saw coming miles away, and others I didn’t. It got me thinking about my own life, and the people in it, and death. And I realized something kind of sad to me. If I live to be old and gray, I’m going to be alone.
Why do I say that? Well, first of all, I’m the youngest in my family by a pretty good margin. My sister and brother are 18 and 14 years older than me. My parents are in their 60’s/70’s. My husband is 13 years older than me. He’s the youngest, too, with his closest sibling 10 years older than him and his oldest 20 years older. His nieces and nephews are all older than me except a few, and they are pretty much the same age as me. My niece is 6 years younger than me, and my nephew is 14 years younger. My close friends are all around my age, obviously. Ken’s friends are his age for the most part. So chances are, if I live to be in my 80’s, 90’s, like most women in my family have, I will have very few of my own family and friends around me and distant family of Ken’s.
I have talked about this with my husband and he thinks about that too. He says he realizes that he’s just going to be my “first husband” because he fully expects me to re-marry someday if he passes before me. The thought of that rips me apart, but I know that people move on and who knows, maybe I would? But my grandmother didn’t… she lived decades after my grandpa passed, never remarried. But she was surrounded by children, grandchildren…
And the part of my head that has said over and over that I’m not ready for kids, not for a long time, and maybe not ever begins to soften. I think back to the episode of Grey’s Anatomy I saw a few years back that hits the same nerve – when Meredith and Derek decided they wanted to have kids so that they wouldn’t be alone, and they would always have a piece of each other. I know that someday, not long from now, I want Ken and I to consider having a family. Even just one child together… so that if one of us leaves this world before the other, we’ll always have a part of us in our child. Someone to nurture and care for, to laugh with and cry with, to watch grow into a person with a life of their own. Someone to take care of us when we are old and gray.
Part of me thinks that sounds like really stupid reasons to have a child. But part of me thinks it sounds beautiful. What other reasons do people decide to have children? Because they love kids? Because they want to have a family? Their religious values? Pressure from mom and dad for grandbabies? To get more money from the government? (Don’t laugh, it’s true…) Because they want someone to love unconditionally and to return that feeling?
Even though there is so much more that goes into planning for the end, what you want and don’t want, how you want your life to be played out… this one part really hits me right now. Because I see people who have family and are surrounded by loved ones where I work. And I see people who are alone. I want to be the gray haired old woman who has at least one child who cares for me so, so much. Who will bring in pets to see me. Who will bring me my favorite meal every once in a while from home. Who will make sure that my caregivers are giving me the very best care that I deserve. Who will be able to remember the woman I was when I was younger, before my mind went if that’s the case, and be able to share my story with others. I don’t want to be alone…