When I agreed to write a post about parents, I thought it would be fairly simple. I'm a pro. I figured I'd put in a couple of reminiscences from childhood, maybe a story of a road trip or a tribute to blue collar parents who determined their daughter would go to college. It's just a few hundred words. How hard could that be?
Then I woke up this morning and realized it was The Day. There are certain days in one's life that define your life. Those days that after that day your life is changed forever. May 7, 2007 is one of those days for me. It was the day my mother passed away following a massive stroke a few months before. Indeed, in less than a year she went from being a woman nearly blind who lived alone and did all her own housework to a woman who could barely move. Then one day she goes to the hospital in an ambulance, and a doctor tells us the news, we sit beside her for hours in the hospital room until someone from some mortuary arrives to take her away.
She had a good life, and our faith is strong that we will see her again - someday. But I'm selfish. I want that day to be today. My Dad passed away a few years before. I know it gets better with time. And, yet, there are times I walk through a hardware store and think, "Hmmm... Maybe I'll get Dad that tool for Christmas" or I'll see an announcement for a TV show and reach for the phone to tell mother about it.
But beyond the ordinary experience of grief, the loss of your last parent is disorienting. I felt as if I had been set adrift in an ocean. My folks were the anchor to my past and the compass bearings to my future. Now, I was left to navigate by dead reckoning, and hope I was headed in the right direction as I began to rethink my life and my future.
Maybe it was because I am single. No spouse, no children to provide continuity.Yet, my sister said the same thing and she is married with eight children. Maybe it is as one writer wrote, that we never truly grow up until our parents are gone. I don't know, but I felt lost, disoriented and abandoned. I felt anything but grown up.
Writing helped. That November I participated in National Novel Writing Month and wrote a story about a 50-ish college professor who lost her mother to a stroke and feeling uncertain about her future took a job on the moon. I didn't go that far, but somehow writing about a person that close to my own experience helped.
I was sitting in a restaurant the other day, and I heard a woman complaining about her mother's phone calls. I couldn't help but think I would give anything for just one more phone call from both my parents. Yet, I hear their voice in the background as I teach, their words blend with mine when I write, and I know that when my time comes to cross the great river, I will hear mother say, "Come on home dear. I have a place set at the table."