I am ashamed to admit it, but I am outrageously jealous of my friends who are enjoying the companionship of vibrant and involved octogenarian parents. This is such a selfish and unfair statement, I know. I had great parents (Mom is still living) and they were there for me when I needed them. So many people can’t even say the same.
So many of my friends did not have the joy of being given away by their Fathers. I did.
So why am I feeling sorry for myself that my parents weren’t the “take the family on a trip to celebrate our 50th Anniversary” type? For many years, whenever we were together, Mom and Dad took the family to their favorite Italian restaurant in South St. Louis, Missouri, Giuseppe’s.
My parents cooing with my nephew and one of the family’s closest friends over amazing Italian cuisine in South St. Louis. GREAT memories.
I can’t help but feel a pang of jealousy, though, when I hear a friend tell me she spent the afternoon shopping with her Mom and then out to dinner with both parents – and they are in their eighties and enjoying active lives. Like the famous Carole King song, I know I need to do a better job at taking the bitter with the sweet:
“A friend of mine once told me
and I know he knows all about feelin’
He said, “Everything good in life you’ve
got to pay for
But feeling’ good is what you’re paving the way for”
But you can’t enjoy the sweet without “paying for it” with the bitter, right? That’s the deal. Sometimes it stinks!
The morning my Dad passed away and I called my husband to share the expected but dreadful news, a feeling washed over me I had really never felt before and I told him through my tears, “I wasn’t done with him yet.” That must be why sometimes in my dreams I watch him ride away, alone in a limo with darkly tinted windows – no room for me. The separation of death is bitter. Memories are sweet. I guess I will always taste both.
In my heart, this is where my parents remain – in their late 60’s, active, involved, enjoying life. Laughing with me. Together.
Nobody prepared me (or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention) for this constant ache you get from watching your parents age and then losing them. Maybe it’s because loss from death is the first thing I have ever encountered in my human existence that simply cannot be prepared for.
And the really strange truth about losing a parent is this: the permanent pain is because of the sweetness of their love. Like C.S. Lewis writes in “A Grief Observed,” -“For in grief nothing ‘stays put.’ One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?”
At the end of the day, I don’t begrudge any of my fortunate friends who are still enjoying happy times with both parents. It’s a gift and, after all, not something to be overly examined. I had what I had and that’s it. Boy, was I lucky.