08/04/2014 11:57 am ET

Can Parenthood And Pessimism Live Side by Side?

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When I was about 10 or 11, my father took me to a nursing home one summer evening. As a pharmacist in the small Irish city of Kilkenny, he sometimes visited customers and other elderly acquaintances who were hospitalized or bedridden, and I would insist on going with him, as in those days I insisted on accompanying him wherever he went, relishing even the prospect of a trip to the dump if it meant spending time alone with my father, whom I idolized. This nursing home, a low and dreary building, was a place I’d never been to before; known locally as “the poor house,” it was a state-run institution for elderly and senile patients whose families could not afford to pay for their care.

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