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It's everything I want to tell people when they make small talk and profound talk, but I often can't. Sickness, sex, and the process of dealing with aging parents feel unspeakable and sometimes unreachable, but they sure aren't here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


A friend (Sue) remarked that losing a parent is like losing your compass. It is not as easy to find your direction. There is no more generational line between you and mortality.

Tonight, my dad gave me a picture of him that he found in his drawer. When I get a decent scanner or hook up my current so-so one, I'll show him to you. He is about ten and giggling in the picture, ever the consummate pretty boy, one of the reasons why he got the crap kicked out of him when he was young.

He found the picture while flipping through his high school yearbook, looking to find the faces of those who recently died. His clock is running out, and I am losing the path.

As virtous men passe mildly'away, And whisper to their soules, to goe, Whilst some of their sad friends doe say, The breath goes now, and some say, no: So let us melt, and make no noise...

[From John Donne]


Blogger Maria said...

I haven't heard any better description. I've never felt so lost in my life.

The way I've been since my dad died seems so different to me than how my mom has been. I feel like losing a parent made me realize that I can lose anyone - and that I will lose myself too eventually. I think I felt protected from death when he was alive, I thought it was so far away. B/c you think your parents die first, and you think they are going to be around forever - so that means you have a really long time to go.

My mother still seems to look at her parents and think that they will be here forever. I think it's b/c they were her direction before she married my father, and then he became her direction (although they stayed in the picture in a major way too) in the way that a couple plans to share the future together, and now that he is gone, she has gone back to them.

I never really thought of my parents as giving direction when I was growing up, but if anything, my father was the only one who tried to give me the chance to find my direction. My mother would have preferred to lock me in the house to make sure nothing ever happened to me. It was b/c of my father that I was able to go way to college, travel to London in high school, etc. Somewhat off topic - It was also my father who called and asked if I was okay when my ex and I split, and who said months before he died that gays should be able to marry.

So... sometimes I feel like I've said goodbye to a lot more than a parent. I've said goodbye to things like his influence too, and those things, the death of them, leave a really big void.

12/28/2005 01:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Sue said...

I was 28 when I became an orphan, having lost both parents during an 18 month odyssey of illness and incapacitation. It wouldn't have mattered if I were 8 or 48 - losing them left me rudderless for extended periods of time.

When you lose your parents after the age of 18, people (who apparently haven't lost anyone) act as though you should have expected it and that it should not make a significant difference to you.

Ha - that is a bunch of hooey and I'm here to tell you, you're never really ready to lose your parents. In fact, I suspect it isn't until we're well into our 20's that we really begin to respect and admire our parents.

When I was 18, I wasn't speaking with my folks - by the time 25 rolled around I had finally repaired and recovered from my adolescent abandonment. My mom wasn't just my parent, she was also my friend, confidant and co-conspirator. My dad was not just the sperm donor - he was the fellow I talked over business and investment decisions with. In other words, they mattered a lot in my life.

What I've learned in the twelve years of being an orphan is that parental surrogacy is not only possible, it is damn critical. Thanks to willing friends and colleagues, I have built relationships that echo much of what I had with my parents in those few years of adulthood.

They don't replace my missing parents, but their calm, respectful presence and willingness to occasionally kick my butt and keep me grounded ease the loss, some.

Maria, I'm so sorry. Although it is never *easy* to lose someone you love, the pain *does* ease, I promise.

One of the things I did after they died was write out how they mattered and what influence they had on my life. Now, as I take and make major decisions, I find myself referring back to those notes, asking myself what they'd think. It doesn't always change my decisions, but it often informs them.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for coping with loss, sadly, but I thought I'd share mine anyway.

12/28/2005 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

Thanks so much for sharing, Sue. I do feel the "You're over 18. What's the big deal?" view coming from many people. And you are right - they are all people who haven't lost anyone.

1/05/2006 10:42:00 PM  

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