Ex­am­ple of older par­ents has guided my love life

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE - By Jack Rushall

A cou­ple years ago I stum­bled upon a hard truth: I wasn’t planned. My con­ser­va­tive par­ents, who would sel­dom travel to­gether dur­ing my 18 years liv­ing be­tween their walls, had booked an art tour in San Fran­cisco in the fall of 1992. There, I was con­ceived with care­ful aban­don be­hind a patch of painted ladies.

Yet this hard truth has been made easy.: My par­ents re­fer to me as a “happy sur­prise.” My mom had al­ways strug­gled with hav­ing chil­dren. My only sib­ling, an older sis­ter, is eight years my se­nior. My grand­par­ents, now all de­ceased, were stunned at my 44-year-old mother’s sud­den burst of fer­til­ity. My fa­ther, op­po­site her, was 47.

Some re­searchers ar­gue against older par­ents hav­ing kids like me. They con­tend that older par­ents in­crease the risk of bear­ing chil­dren with chro­mo­so­mal ab­nor­mal­i­ties, such as var­i­ous men­tal, phys­i­cal and mood dis­or­ders. How­ever, I can at­test to so­cial ben­e­fits of the ex­pe­ri­ence; namely, in the ro­man­tic depart­ment.

Both now about 70, my mom and dad have al­ways been very much in love. They’ve had the same rou­tine since their wed­ding in 1976: They wake up, feed their zoo of cats and dogs and en­joy a cup of joe over the morn­ing pa­pers. On many days I woke up not to an out­stretched ray of sun­shine but to their feral, chok­ing laugh­ter. They were both lawyers, and I can’t re­mem­ber one ar­gu­ment be­tween them.

How might hav­ing older par­ents af­fect my own ro­man­tic life? The is­sue has been un­der­re­searched. But it’s worth not­ing that mar­ried cou­ples over the age of 50 are twice as likely as their coun­ter­parts un­der 50 to stay to­gether, de­spite an uptick in so­called gray di­vorces.

From this, one can de­duce that chil­dren of older par­ents are more likely to wit­ness pro­longed com­pan­ion­ship. In­deed, my par­ents set a ro­man­tic prece­dent. See­ing them con­sole one an­other through life-al­ter­ing ill­nesses and piv­otal deaths of many fam­ily mem­bers, for ex­am­ple, pro­vided me with a deep-seated in­ter­est in ob­tain­ing some­thing my gen­er­a­tion seems to strug­gle with: com­mit­ment.

I re­al­ize not all peo­ple want fam­i­lies, but I know I will. My par­ents have never been co-de­pen­dent, but I’m at­tracted to the ro­man­ti­cism of their per­se­ver­ance through all the ways the dice have fallen across their 40 years of mar­riage. Hav­ing been born when they had al­ready been to­gether for nearly two decades, I never ques­tioned their de­vo­tion or their abil­ity to com­pro­mise. While I may have been en­vi­ous of kids in movies with di­vorced par­ents who were young, ath­letic ac­tors, I’m thank­ful I never came close to ac­tu­ally be­ing a child of di­vorce.

My par­ents’ rou­tine of­fered me and my sis­ter a sta­bil­ity that we wish to mir­ror. A long­time se­rial monogamist, my sis­ter re­cently mar­ried at 30, and kids are still not on her im­me­di­ate radar. My par­ents were not the first peo­ple they dated, but my sis­ter and I have held out on any se­ri­ous com­mit­ment un­til we knew it was one we could make, be it mar­riage or par­ent­ing.

I whole­heart­edly be­lieve my par­ents are a di­rect cause of my be­ing sin­gle. I don’t feel any ro­man­tic anx­i­ety or rush to get mar­ried, and I won’t date un­less it’s se­ri­ous. At this junc­ture, I’m not sure I even want to get mar­ried, and I haven’t set any sort of dead­line. My par­ents have en­cour­aged me to pur­sue a long-term re­la­tion­ship with my­self first, fully aware that it’s pos­si­ble to find a sturdy ro­man­tic part­ner at any time.

You could say I’m picky, but with love it’s best to wait un­til you’re ca­pa­ble of hold­ing it. You can’t hang a paint­ing on a wall wet with paint.

MORSA IMAGES

The writer’s par­ents had been mar­ried over two decades be­fore he was born. He says their lov­ing re­la­tion­ship has him want­ing a sim­i­lar long-term com­mit­ment in mar­riage.

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