I’m sure everyone knows Aesop’s fable about the grasshopper and the ant, where the ant is industrious and works hard and stores food for the winter and the grasshopper flits about and has fun and doesn’t worry about tomorrow and then meets a bad end when the cold weather comes (largely because the ant won’t help it). The moral of the story is meant to be all about hard work and planning for the future, but the ant comes across as mean spirited and a bit of a killjoy.
Q. and I are ants, in that we live within our means. We bought the house we could afford, not the one we really wanted. We don’t keep a balance on our credit cards. When we do take on debt (such as buying a car), we pay it off as fast as we can.
My father is an ant.
My stepfather was, to a certain degree, a grasshopper.
My father, thanks to his ant-like tendencies, has the financial resources to pay for the extensive care he is going to need for the rest of his life. He will not have to live in some sort of institutional setting because he cannot afford otherwise.
My stepfather, thanks to his grasshopper nature, enjoyed more than a decade of retirement from his long-term career.
If my stepfather had been in my father’s accident, and my father had ended up with my stepfather’s cancer, their outcomes would have been even more bleak. My father would have died only eighteen months or so after retiring from his second career, and my stepfather would not have had the financial resources for private care.
But I feel like both of them are reminders that we should all channel the grasshopper, at least some of the time.
My father is 63.
My stepfather died the day before his 65th birthday.
Neither of them is going to get the decades of retirement that financial planners urge you to consider when thinking about the future.
They both made time to travel, to visit family, and to enjoy hobbies. They both squeezed a great deal into their lives.
But I can’t help but feel that they were both cheated of so much.
Being at home with a small baby, I do spend a certain amount of time wishing for the future. I can’t help it- I’m not a baby person. I love P., but I will enjoy her more when she is bigger.
At the same time, I find myself thinking a lot about my father and my stepfather and reminding myself to stay present, in this moment, in this life.
This isn’t a dress rehearsal.
This is all we get.
And when Q. and I are looking ahead, to places we want to go, and things we want to do, I am going to try to remember that we need to be grasshoppers too, at least some of the time.