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Orphaned at 39

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I’ve heard the term “orphaned adult” but I never really understood its meaning, until my mother died. I lost my father when I was 26, our relationship was volatile. From his death bed he told me he was proud of me. That was bittersweet; I wish he had felt that way while he was healthy. My father died of cancer of the colon and liver at age 56. My mother survived him by fourteen years. She died Memorial Day of 2005, of congestive heart failure from a lifetime of smoking. She was 68. I was 39 when my mother died.

My mom died the end of May and I turned 40 a couple of months later in August. I always thought 40 would be a turning point for me. Among the things I wanted to accomplish in the decade was to write a book. I had big dreams, and all of them included my mother. I lived with her and was her primary caregiver. I wanted to have a best-seller so I could buy her the home of her dreams. A big ranch style home with a gazebo in the back. In my dreams, I never thought I would turn forty without her.

Her death left me feeling lost. I was so busy running back and forth to the hospital, then mom came home with Hospice and I provided around the clock care. Her hospice bed was in the living room so I slept on the couch right next to her. When she died, I sat down and its been hard to get back up. The feeling of exhaustion is one that not even sleep can extinguish.

I have a lot of resentments towards family members. I have siblings, but evidence of that was lacking with mom’s care. I lost some very special dogs during my mom’s final days, Reggie, Star and Pugsy. They were rescues with special needs. Three of my seven rescued dogs had needs that conflicted with my mothers. I spoke with the vet who said they would need placed carefully in special homes but there was still a very big risk of the separation anxiety being too much for them to handle. They had been physcially abused and emotionally damaged. The vet and I decided together the most humane thing would be to put them down. I devoted my life to those dogs, I fought for Reggie in court. His abuser sued me to get him back and lost. Reggie was special to everyone who knew him. I held each dog while they died and whispered “I’m sorry” in their ears. My mom died three days later.

It was just me — mom always said our song was, “You and Me Against The World”. My siblings all have their issues, but so do I. I dealt with a childhood full of abuse, I asked for help and didn’t get it. I had resentments towards my parents for looking the other way, but in the end they were still my parents. I believe we only know what we have been taught. They weren’t taught by the best parents. I think they at least made better parents than their own.

My mom didn’t want to die. She said she was going to be just fine. Then her final morning, she asked for some assistance and said she was feeling nauseated. I went to call the nurse to see if she could bring her an injection for the nausea, when I turned around after dialing the number my mom had died. Just that fast, her life ended and mine changed drastically.

My mom was gone, some very special dogs were gone, and I didn’t know if I could handle the loneliness and soul-deep pain. There were things left unsaid, as much as I loved my mom she also wouldn’t help me when I needed her most while I was growing up. I wanted to know why she turned her back to what was happening. How could a mom know that her little girl was being sexually abused and not do anything? I had put up with it for a few years and then I heard my parents talking. It had to do with child abuse so I told them what was happening to me. I was seven years old. All my mom said was, “you don’t let anyone else touch you like that do you?” I was ONLY seven years old. The only person I felt safe with, my oldest brother, died that year.

My childhood was filled with sexual abuse. Now my mom is gone and I will never know why she deserted me. As the youngest of the family, there is a lot “I don’t know” about the family dynamics that went on in my home. It just seemed like the older ones got out when they could and tried not to look back. None of them went through the hell I did within these walls. But they left and I chose to stay. I was the one who rushed my dad to the hospital numerous times; he refused ambulances. I was the one my mom was looking at when she took her final breath. Now at age 40, I have to find my way and my place in life.

It doesn’t matter how old you are when your parents die, you feel like an orphan. You are alone in this world. I go back and forth between feeling free and ready to take on life, to feeling scared and alone in a way words can’t express. My siblings have gone on with their lives without me. So it’s just me now. I smoked since I was 18, I quit last month. My mom’s birthday is in a few days, March 19th, and I wanted to be smoke-free in her honor. Smoking took her life, it won’t take mine.

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About Ruthie

I'm devoted to animal rescue. I also work in internet public relations for TV personalities. In my spare time I like to sit on the sofa on my front lawn and watch the grass grow.
  • trooper_D

    Maybe the reason you stayed with your parents, despite the abuse you’ve received in your early years, is that you’ve got a good heart. No matter the pain you’ve suffered, the goodness inside compelled you that your parents needed you to be there for them in their final hour. Somehow, in your heart, you’ve found the strength and courage to set aside your grief to make their life comfortable in the end.

    I’m just wondering if you’ve found forgiveness? There will be a time when you will have to forgive your mother for not truly understanding what was going on when you were young. And there will be a time where you must forgive yourself, that what had happened was not your fault. Without forgiveness, that dreaded disease will eat you up from the inside.

  • Ruthie

    Thanks Trooper…I think I have forgiven all involved…I just wonder what she was thinking….or did she just block it out…she had helped others through a similar situation…but not me…so I was always curious as to why her own wasn’t worth protecting…I was interested in her thought process through it all.

  • chantal stone

    Ruthie…..there is a similar situation to yours in my family.

    i don’t believe that it was a matter of your mother not thinking you were worth protecting, i seriously doubt she would feel that way. sometimes people are so busy looking out for those around the perimeter, they fail to see the ones up close who really need the help. perhaps your mother simply made the false assumption that since you were right there under her nose, you were fine.

    unfortunately, this happens all too often. you are in my prayers.

  • Ruthie

    Thanks Chantal.

  • trooper_D

    Good point chantal. I was just thinking about that after reading Ruthie’s reply.

    Good for you, Ruthie! It’s good that you’ve forgiven all those involved. At least your spirit has been cleansed, and I’m sure that your heart is full of warmth and love. Stay strong and stay safe!

  • Ruthie…I am so glad our paths crossed. We have much in common. I look forward to getting to know you better.

    Continue to be blessed and be a blessing.

  • fran

    I couldnt sleep, wish I could have a chat with my mam or dad and ask their advice on a few things. Ive lost both my parents too. My mother, to a tragic accident in 1991, she was 54yrs and my father to a heart attack two years ago. I didnt know what to expect when dad died as his alcoholism had put such a strain on our relationship. Just reading your thoughts has been so comforting. When you wrote that you sat down and havent been able to get up, it touched a cord with me. It is beautifully put and so very true. I hope your days will brighten and that your heart will lift.
    Ps. Your mother may not have been able to accept or admit to herself what was goig on in your childhood. Maybe that way she could believe she had protcted you, because the alternative would be too painful for her to cope with?

  • Ruthie

    Hi Fran,
    Sorry for your losses…its never easy being without parents at any age..regardless of what kind of relationship you had with them…glad you found some comfort from my article. It’s been a couple of years since I wrote it and things are going really well these days. Positive friends and a positive outlook has really made a difference for me.
    I hope life is good to you!
    Take Care,