On losing a parent…
Now, I understand.
Losing a parent. I’ve seen plenty of people go through it, but you never really understand until it’s you. My dad died suddenly last week at 93, leaving behind my 93 year-old mother and four children, who are all trying to help and support our mother, while processing our own feelings of shock and loss.
Losing a parent leaves you feeling like a trap door just opened underneath you; like your tether to a fixed object has just been cut, leaving you floating helplessly in space. It smacks you between the eyes with the vivid truth that you are a grown-up and now is the time to act like one, despite whatever family dynamic you’ve been used to.
I’m the youngest child or as my mom still says when she introduces me to people, “the baby”. When that’s your label for over 50 years, it sinks in. I know that my mom uses that label with affection, but it can mean that you’re never quite taken seriously as a functioning member of the family; I’ve always kind of hated that role. All of my siblings are at least a decade older and I’ve always felt little ‘apart’ from them, since they all grew up in a herd, while I was solo as a child. “The Baby”.
None of that really matters now, since death and loss bring people together in a way that no other event can. We will find a way forward and I like to think something positive will come from this; a deeper understanding of how our parents formed all of us and maybe a commitment to stay a little more connected as a family. We all have one common purpose now and that is my mother’s care and welfare. That makes for a very powerful bond.
So, as I grieve the loss of my sweet father, I will continue to write. It’s helpful for me as I sort through my feelings and think about his legacy. Judging from the many visitors and well-wishers over the past few days, he had a great impact on a lot of people that are complete strangers to me. That’s a good feeling during a very difficult time.