Still, being an orphan is something that feels connected to childhood. As a culture we tend to put added significance on a child being without parents, but seem to dismiss adults in the same situation. People all over the world lose both their parents as adults. It is the nature of things. I am sure many of them do not walk around all day thinking “Now I am an orphan” the way I have been doing, but maybe that is because society has trained us not to think that way. It is convenient in the adult world to keep a stiff upper lip, put our shoulders to the wheel, and go on with things. To me that just doesn’t equate with the passing of my parents. I cannot accept that as the way of the world, even though I know it is.
As long as my parents were alive, so was my childhood. I could sit with them and reminisce about times past, share laughter and tears, and know that there was always someone there who loved me unconditionally. There are many intimate moments a child shares with both parents, and those are precious and sacred times that you can recollect together as long as your parents live. With my parents gone now, the memories remain but the opportunity to share them changes precipitously. There is a heft to even happy stories because I once experienced those times with the people I loved who are now gone.
After my mother passed away, I still had my father to sit and talk to about everything. We would trade stories about Mom and have a laugh (or a cry). When my young son did something wild or inappropriate, I’d ask my Dad if I ever did anything like that. He would nod his head and say, “Yes, but you were worse than he is.” I needed him to remind me of things I couldn’t remember like that. As long as you have even one parent, you have a precious resource that helps you make sense of who you are.
Another thing that I feel is lost is my parents as keepers of the flame. On both sides of the family there were old stories, and my folks were like historians. If I wanted to know who Aunt Jenny was or how I was related to this person, my parents were able to connect the dots. Over the years they did help me understand my rather large extended family, but I miss being able to go to them now for a quick answer. I also just enjoyed hearing them tell the stories, which they did so colorfully.