Let me tell you something. I may not understand what it means to be a young person in today’s world. Everyone is unique (get it?) and there’s no way I’ll understand you. But let me tell you what I’ve come to understand over the past 5 years. Loss. I know loss is a personal thing and there will always be someone out there with a greater loss and god bless ‘em because my loss is about all I can bear. I remember what it was like to be a young adult in my mid-30s. I’m calling that young because any age younger than my present age is “young”. I was a semi-successful engineer, supporting myself and my daughter. Parents were a burden. They didn’t know their place in my life..afterall, I wasn’t a child anymore and certainly didn’t need their advice or help. It was a constant battle to keep them from meddling…keep them at arms’ distance. That’s not to say that I didn’t love them. I certainly did. And we had good times. Family vacations, weekend BBQs and daily phone calls with my mom. It’s just I needed to guard my independence and “grown-up” ness. When my mother died suddenly 5 years ago it silenced everything. My world went dumb. For those who have lost your mothers you know the loss is profound. And while 5 years later I’m “over” it, it does affect my daily life. Five years of hindsight is a mixed blessing and there’s not day that goes by that I don’t think about her or ache for her to tell me what I’m doing wrong or what I could do better. To hear her voice or even give her a hug (something we stopped doing after she developed neuropathy secondary to prior chemo treatments) would be nirvanna. The next loss was that of my child’s father. We weren’t together and he was more a thorn in my side than anything else. Ever the Peter Pan, he refused to take responsibility for his daughter and paid child support exactly twice during her minor years. He could be cruel but he could be funny. He was a dreamer with not much of a sense of reality. I should have hated him…and I did for a long time. I was even mad at him after he died. He should have taken better care of himself for my daughter was my reason. Now a few years later I just miss knowing that he was there and that my daughter could tell her friends that she had a mom and dad. And now there’s my father. This may be the cruelest loss of all. Last year he was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. He’d been an absent minded professor type for most of my adult life, but he was also the smartest man I knew. His IQ tested around 140. And, let’s face it, as a little girl, your dad is your first prince charming. Your first knight in shining armor. He’s the biggest, strongest, smartest man you first know. So while the MCI diagnosis was unhappy it was just a small slide down the slippery slope we find ourselves on now a year and a half later. In the past year my father has become a facade of who he is. I say that because his personality is the same. His humor and demeanor are the same. It’s just there’s nothing to back it up. The substance is gone. Stories are about “it” or “they” and there’s always an undefined problem that gets resolved. Lately my step mother has relayed stories that when he reads books he gets caught up in the story and thinks it’s happening to him. He can’t remember they’re married or that the house they’re living in is theirs. I lost my mother all at once. I’m losing my father one memory at a time. He’s recently been given a secondary diagnosis of transient craptras. That means he may not know or believe I am his daughter or his wife not a double of her true self. I don’t know how much longer even the remnant of my father will be there.
My sister and I, who were never close growing up, have spent several hours long telephone conversations lately. How did we get to this point in our lives? It seems so quick. Neither of us feels ready for this stage. Just yesterday I was pushing my nosey parents out of my business. Now they’re gone. Both my sister and I long for 10 years ago. Hell it was yesterday wasn’t it? The family BBQs, the family vacation “drinks” (the Sangria vacation was especially memorable) and the requisite mom and dad argument after said drinks, the ability to say “Mom & Dad” as a unit. All of that is gone. Tangible as dream.
So you stupid young people. You spoiled stupid young people (and I’m talking to the young Wendy here). Get over yourself. There is nothing so grand about you or your plans that will match the unrecognized joy you have now. There are 2 people who are guaranteed to love you more than their own lives. When they’re gone so is the security of knowing that someone in this world who knows everything about you and loves you anyway is gone. And you move up one rung on the ladder. It’s lonely at the top.