Christmas dinner at his daughter's house: Dick was surrounded by his wife, grandchildren, son-in-law, stepsons and their families. What could be warmer and nicer for the holidays? For those of us at a certain age, plenty.
Dick says that as everyone moved from the living room to the dining room for dinner, he sat down on the sofa and brooded. Am I still needed? he asked himself. As a business man (retired but doing volunteer work with a small business advisory group), Dick had been there to advise his son, son-in-law, daughter, and stepsons on their career moves--on getting started, on moving up the corporate or other ladders. Now that they were well on their way, they had reached a point where they knew more about where they were than he did. Never good at small talk, he felt left out of the general chit chat going back and forth between and among his grown children. "I didn't see where I fit in. I wouldn't say I felt irrelevant. I would say I felt almost irrelevant."
To put in perspective the feelings that flooded him that Christmas night, Dick says it has been harder to take than some of the physical diminishments he has experienced as he has gotten older--no longer having the same endurance or strength he had as a 60-year-old man who rode his bike for 50 miles or more on a Sunday outing. Illness and age have taken a toll (20 miles is the new comfort level). But he says he feels that diminishment of strength less keenly than the loss of his role as the wise head of a many-branched family. As far as he is concerned, the grownchildren have outgrown their need for his advice. "I brought them up to be independent," he says. And now they are.
Who knew success would feel so empty?