On being (sometimes) a grasshopper

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.

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4 Comments

Filed under Blink and you'll miss it, Choose Happiness, Family, Grief, P.- the first year

4 responses to “On being (sometimes) a grasshopper

  1. nonsequiturchica

    Well put. I’m not a huge fan of the newborn phase either so I find myself wishing that my new son would hurry up and get bigger….but I should probably try to stay in the present as much as possible.

  2. Good conclusion. I look at my FIL, who head always been an and, and who has not had much joy in his (long) retirement because he still thinks he needs to be an ant, who has isolated himself from his grandchildren when he could have visited them every year but he thought it was extravagant. It’s very sad.

    I think the key is balance, appreciating what we have, and occasionally throwing caution to the wind and doing something simply because it will bring us joy.

  3. I am an ant too, but I agree the ant comes across as a jerk in the story. I think living within your means is essential, and having emergency plans and funds, but also to be living in the now. Maybe it’s a matter of making some sacrifices so you can do the things you really want while not being irresponsible. The other piece is attitude, as you imply. I no longer want to wish my time away, even the sad or unpleasant parts. I try to remind myself I’m alive and living right now, even in the most mundane moments.

  4. Bryce and I are ants, but he’s pure ant and I have a little grasshopper in me. I make time for sitting on the couch and reading and other things that are enjoyable, not just the work. I love this post for the reminder that you don’t always get to enjoy the fruits of your planning, and that while it’s good to be an ant and be responsible, channeling a bit of grasshopper makes sure there’s some balance for the life you have now, since tomorrow isn’t promised. What a beautiful post.

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