Wendy's life

This blog has been created as a celebration of the life of Wendy Margaret Cronin (born 16 October 1944 and died 10 October 2007). The blog owner (me) is Steve McRobb (aka Macro) - I was Wendy's partner and then husband for almost 30 years. To add comments or a post, you must be an invited friend or family member - email me if you knew Wendy and would like to join.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Losses and additions

There's a basic arithmetic in human affairs, which—in the very long run—will probably prove to be a zero-sum exercise. A Japanese Zen story I read long ago suggests that, for us ordinary folk, happiness consists of "father dies, son dies, grandson dies." Because that's the natural succession of the generations. Of course, it doesn't mean that there is normally anything happy about death. But, given that death awaits us all, what can be worse than death? Undoubtedly the loss to death of a child or a grandchild. By "long run," of course, I mean "very long run." Our species has the stewardship of this planet, at best, for a few billion years, after which it will be destroyed by the expansion of our sun as it turns into a red giant. Ultimately we came from nothing and return to nothing (another Zen reference). I suppose that means that all our hopes for children, grandchildren, etc, etc, may ultimately come to nothing. Quite likely if the history of life and extinctions on earth is anything to go by. That could be a sad thought if it wasn't so impossibly, inconceivably far away in the future. But it is impossibly, inconceivably far away in the future. So, plenty of time for evolution and star travel to take good care of our distant descendants...

Another perspective on this comes in the form of an old wish or prayer that I heard on the radio. A contributor to some program or other said that it was a family ritual for someone to say each Christmas: "this time next year, if there be not more of us, may there be not fewer." I liked that, and so did Wendy when I told her about it. So for a few years we adopted it as a family ritual for our Christmases. After Wendy died, I lost interest in saying it for a while, but recently I've resurrected it. The trigger for the resurrection was when our grandson Sam and his partner Milly joined me and Angela for Christmas 2017, with their little boy Dexter, then almost 2 years old, and baby Wynter, coming up to her first birthday. Once more, the wish seemed appropriate. Even more so, as Wynter is Wendy's first great-grandchild by bloodline, and a source of both great joy (she is a lovely little girl - there's proof on my photo website) and also an inner sadness (Wendy would have so loved to meet her if time had been more kind).

This basic arithmetic is also expressed in something Wendy once wrote in her diary, many years ago when she was freshly divorced and we were first living together. She wrote something like this: "We're not like other families; you can join, but only if you are accepted by everyone else. And you can leave." That made perfect sense for us at the time. We were a family of four: one of the children was adopted (Tim), the other (Duncan) was a natural child of Wendy and a man who had now left the family, and I was a newcomer unrelated to anyone else (Wendy and I didn't marry for another 19 years). My parents never really accepted the situation. Both grew very fond of Wendy, but the fact that we didn't marry remained a sticking point in their acceptance. And even if we had, I'm not sure they would ever have completely accepted our kids as "real" grandchildren, much as Tim and Duncan would have loved a granny and grandpa when all their predecessors were already gone. But no matter, we were a family on our own terms.

That definition of our family continues today. Angela and I are both widows of our former loves, but we love each other and will continue to do so as long as we can. Together we have children, grandchildren, and now great-grandchildren who are related to us and to each other in various complicated ways involving adoption, step-parenting, re-marriage and so on. None of that matters if by mutual agreement you are accepted in. Or if you want to be out (unilaterally, if that's how it is).

And the losses and additions continue. Sadly, Sam and Milly have now parted and by mutual agreement share the care of Dexter and Wynnie. So, more additions (Dexter and Wynnie), and more loss (Milly). But the family, as Wendy defined it almost 40 years ago, endures. Not only endures, it grows at one end of the generational gradient, even as it shrinks (slowly I hope!) at the other. I think on the whole Wendy would approve.

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