Guilt of leaving kids behind
The responsibility of any parent is to rear children so that they are independently self-sufficient. This is because, in the grand scheme of things, the child will outlive the parent by many years and will have to navigate on his own without continued parental support. If one is able to truthfully say that one''s grown children are independently self-sufficient then the job has been done well. If not, then the job is not yet finished and, in some instances, may never be finished. This is not to say that humans abandon their mature young, as in the animal kingdom, but that human life progresses in well defined stages.
Failure to recognize, accept, and adapt to the changing stages deprives all involved of the wonderful benefits that lie with each succeeding stage.
Some refer to this failure as the "apron strings syndrome". I prefer to call it "terminal motherhood" because the condition effects mothers to a far greater extent than it does fathers.
It manifests itself in the display of actions that reveals the mother''s fear of dread in every decision made by a grown child in a social situation. No matter how many spousal candidates are presented, none is satisfactory. When an engagement occurs, her involvement in the planning of the wedding ensures that is reduced to a cross between the Civil War and a congressional debate. After the wedding, the new spouse is not immediately welcomed into the family but has to undergo some sort of ill-defined test to prove worthiness, a test that is rarely passed with a sufficiently high grade. And, of course, when the grandchildren arrive, she knows that their rearing is all wrong.
So what do we have? A large group of miserably unhappy people.
The cure for terminal motherhood is to permit grown children to lead their lives, with guidance and advice offered, but without interference. This is what will keep a family as close as that particular family can be kept.
Young adults are still like flowers that have not yet bloomed; in an attempt to protect them, they are easily smothered. What they need, and will always need, is room to grow and the sunshine of a mother''s love.
There are far too many well meaning mothers who have unintentionally earned the dreaded title, "the mother-in-law".
As far as your reference to your youngest being scared that you won''t be around, my compliments to him for so easily heaping a massive guilt trip on you that you seem quite willing to accept. Is this the first time he''s done this, or is this par for his course?
Will not his two elder siblings keep an eye out for him?
Your live-aboard process has been evolving for a long time; you did not spring a surprise on him. You did give him a choice and he made it. Now you are grieving that he may have made the wrong choice. What would have happened if you had issued an ultimatum? No doubt, the result would have been the same -- only accompanied by acrimony.
Will there ever be a time when you will be able to live out your remaining years as you wish? In all of this, what is your responsibility to your "partner"? Only you can decide.
Forgive me for rambling. That''s my terminal affliction.