18 July 2017

Stranded

Last weekend we were at a big family party. It was an afternoon event out in Lincolnshire and it was held in a rambling old vicarage owned by one of Shirley's aunties. What a marvellous place - so spacious! And what a marvellous spread of food her auntie provided - including huge joints of tender ham and beef, melt-in-the-mouth Lincolnshire new potatoes, dressed salads and homemade lasagne.

She is in her early seventies and divorced. She has two sons. One of them got married and moved away but the other one - now around forty five years old - still lives at home with his mother. He never moved out and still works in association with his father who is a major landowner in the area, overseeing several arable farms. Hence the big house.

With the son, it is as if the train pulled out of the station but he was left at the platform. You could say that life passed him by, This may be linked to his parents' separation but whatever the reason he sleeps in the same room he slept in when he was a schoolboy.

It is a phenomenon I have noticed before - grown up children still living in the family home. I  can only imagine the tensions that this must sometimes cause. The son or daughter frustrated by what they may see as their failure to catch the train and the parents being reminded on a daily basis that their chick failed to fly the nest. It's not what you expect when you bring a child into the world. You must sometimes wonder - what did we do wrong?

Of course nowadays an increasing number of grown-up children continue to live in the family home simply because of financial pressures but this was never the case with Shirley's cousin. He had the economic power to move away and make a new life. I don't know if he ever had a girlfriend or indeed whether or not he is a gay man in denial. But looking in from the outside I find the situation rather sad.

Not only is he stranded in the vicarage but the years are ticking by and the die seems well and truly cast. It is unlikely that anything will change until his mother departs this earth and even then he'll probably continue to rattle around in that big country house surrounded by the ghosts of old times and lost opportunities.

25 comments:

  1. It is rather sad, as you say.

    I can't imagine my ever doing that - wanting or choosing to do so. I couldn't leave home soon enough! I was eager to get out, spread my wings and become independent.

    However, as I said in my response to your previous post..."To each his own..."

    The feast does sound delicious, though...he obviously knows upon which side of his bread is buttered! :)

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    1. He will never have had to really fret about such things as household bills, rent etc..

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  2. It is probably an arrangement that suits both him and his mother, although sad in the sense of missed opportunities. I think that most tensions would come in cases where a child has been living independently and has to come back home to live for whatever reason.

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    1. You are right. That happens too. Returning to the nest. That is one of the ultimate admissions of failure - unless it's just a short term pit stop.

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  3. I know a lady who turned away a serious suitor because she was unwell at the time and didnt want to die on him, she miraculously lived and never met anyone else so she stayed in her parents home and eventually retired early to take care of her elderly mother. Her mother lived until just recently and was 103!! The lady in question is now mid-70s and hasn't really had a moment of retirement.

    We all live with our choices and somewhere along the line Shirley's cousin made his, even if it was by default. Maybe he will become a new man when he is alone in the house?

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    1. I feel sorry for your acquaintance and maybe late at night as she drifts off to sleep she thinks of what might have been.

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  4. I know mothers who do not want their children to leave, and children (grown up ones, I mean) who do not want to leave. From the outside it looks as if they depend on each other; the mother wants to feel needed, the child can not be bothered to do his or her own cooking, cleaning and washing. But it is not "natural", somehow, and much as I love my parents (and they love me), I would not want to live too close, let alone in the same flat or house with them. A 10-minute-walk separates us when I'm at home, and that is ideal.

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    1. Yes - not "natural" in our modern world.

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  5. Similar situation with my darling farmer and the point at which I moved in. I got on very well with both his parents until they died and had I not been there he would have no doubt continued to live alone. Always a sad situation.

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    1. You brought him unexpected joy. The responsibility of farming family land often traps sons and sometimes daughters too.

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  6. That is an interesting point about grown-ups still living at home, but I guess it all boils down to the parents who have raised them in such dependent manner.

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    1. But in this case there were two sons. One went off to live his own life and the other was left behind.

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  7. Gregg had a friend like that he grew up with. This man was a brilliant musician and was one of the funniest human beings I've ever met...but he did nothing with his life. He turned down a music scholarship to a prestigious school and lived with his mother and grandmother until he died (in his early fifties) of complications from alcoholism and drug addiction. It was so sad.

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    1. What a waste. He could have been somebody. at several crossroads he must have picked the wrong road. Very sad.

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  8. You are all missing an important point, I think. If a child wants to continue a family farming operation, it's necessary to at least live nearby. Raising cattle in California, for example, takes a lot of property and isn't something you can buy into unless you're a millionaire (and they only make those investments for tax purposes). My stepfather was a cattleman. One of his children lived in the old farm house with her family and the other had a house built for him and his family. The children went through a progression of spouses, the reality of cattle ranching is there's a lot of work and very little income involved and if you don't love it you won't stick with it. Another of our local ranching families has sort of a family compound, with 4 houses on it. My own family owned a lot of cropland. I still have the part my father inherited. I went out to college and lived away for a few years, but this is the place I love so I came back. My mother and I lived in this house together for 12 years. I always had an outside job, it's the only way you can keep this place going. Those years were good, we didn't always get along but had a common goal, to hang onto the land. After my mother died, I married and had a son. The husband was a city boy, he eventually left to go back to a life with less dirt and more neighbors. My son also loves this place. He was on his own for a couple of years, but has moved back with his girlfriend of 4 years. We all live in the same house, new houses cannot be built here because it's an active floodplain and the county won't issue a permit. The kids work jobs off the property (both have also worked on the farm), it's still necessary to have an outside income to live here. If he left entirely and wanted to buy his own farm, my son might manage to do that by the time he retires, but in the meantime he'll be living in town because that's all a wage earner can afford. The simple formula of turning 18 and leaving home for a new life of your own has never worked in farming. But it's also becoming increasingly difficult for the population in general. I thought that was sad until I saw how immigrant families manage. One family I know has 7 children. Five are still at home, the oldest is 31 and the youngest is 8. The older ones have outside jobs, but they also are an important part of the family, helping care for the younger ones. The two who have moved out still live nearby, communicate with their siblings daily, and love being part of their family. When one of them wants to go to school, the others chip in and help make it happen. Now that I see how well this can work, I'm looking forward to having a next generation grow up in this house. The way we look at our lives, that each child goes off and creates his own unit as a consumer and then spends his life paying for it needs to be reexamined.

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    1. Thank you for your interesting reflections on this matter Jan. Certainly food for thought.

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  9. It is sad, but then if he took over the family business, so to speak, then he is tied to that. He presumably is happy with the situation, or he would have moved with his feet.

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    1. He isn't happy but perhaps he didn't have enough umph to break out.

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  10. I think "flying the nest" is a Western phenomenon and agree with Jan above in her references to how immigrant families cope. It's not necessarily sad or a failure on the part of either parents or children. Is your relative unhappy with his situation? That's the litmus test for me.

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    1. He isn't happy but now I come to think about it, I think you are right to picture this "issue" as a Western phenomenon. Where extended families still rule in the rural third world the idea of breaking out is the stuff of dreams.

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  11. We sold the family home and moved to France so they had to be independent. I'm not sure if they will ever forgive us.

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    1. My twenty eight year old daughter has said to me a few times. "Never leave this house!" It's where she grew up and she loves it but....

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  12. I think that there may be some people who have regrets for this family situation. I think for many others that they are perfectly fine with the arrangement. I Think agricultural families sometimes end up in this arrangement to keep the family farm.

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  13. I think that it is a matter for each person (where he has the mental and economic capacity) to determine and live with his own situation and not for others to speculate.

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  14. It's a matter of personal choices and happiness. Is your relative happy living at home? Do you think HE believes that he's "missed out"? I think a lot of people are quite content to stay at home, for whatever reason, and I think a lot of parents appreciate having them there. So I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that this is a sad or unfortunate situation -- but then, you know all concerned much better than I do!

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