A Day for Memories and Grief
Today is the 22nd anniversary of my father’s death. This March is the 8th anniversary of my Mom’s death.
Those two little sentences, those two declarative statements about my life, have come to define it so much.
Part of me wants to insert a disclaimer here about writing about such a personal/depressing/pity-seeking post on a blog. But you know what, fuck it. It’s my blog and about 5 people read it, and I’m sitting on the couch crying right now because I miss my parents. And so I am going to write about it because God knows, it is an even more awkward topic of conversation with people in person than it is as a blog post. So, disclaimer rescinded.
Most of the time… I don’t feel it. It’s a part of me that is there, like a little ache in the background that you don’t even notice anymore until you do something to hurt yourself. Most of the time, I favor that ache so that I don’t hurt– I make wry “dead parent jokes”, I try to be a generally happy person who doesn’t get bogged down in sad stuff. But sometimes, like on days like today, I hurt myself. I deliberately think about my loss because I don’t want to forget my parents. I rip off the bandage and remember all the memories I can, and think about all of the memories I’ll never have. Which usually ends up with me crying alone on a couch somewhere. But maybe that’s OK. But maybe it’s better to express some of it too.
I think about the things I miss. I lost my parents before the age where you really start to appreciate your parents as fellow adults and recognize the wisdom of them. I didn’t learn the family recipes. I didn’t learn all of the family stories. I can’t ask for advice. My sister and I didn’t save all of the family heirlooms that I would have wanted… because when you’re 21 and living in a dorm, you aren’t really thinking about making sure to save all of your favorite Christmas Ornaments.
And so now, it’s always the little things that cut with an unexpected sharpness of loss and regret.
Dan and I went to see the National Christmas Tree lighting last week. As we were waiting in the security line to get into the Ellipse, the line wound past one of the gate houses to the White House. I remarked to Dan that this was likely near where my parents met. The story that I remember my Mom telling me was that she met my Dad, who was in the Secret Service during the Carter Administration, when he was at one of the Gate Houses to the White House. She was visiting the White House with one of her friends who was dating another Secret Service Agent. And apparently, my Dad was trying to impress my mom and ended up stumbling out of the gate house. I was re-telling this bit of family trivia to Dan and he asked me what type of Secret Service work my father did and I realized I honestly had no idea. Something involving working at the gates, perhaps? I don’t know. I don’t even know if I am remembering this story correctly anymore. And I can’t ask my mom. And I probably didn’t listen as closely as I should have when she tried to tell me that story. Multiply that by pretty much every family story I know and every picture in every photo album that I have no memory of.
I think of the lifetime of events and milestones that I have and will go through alone. Not alone, maybe. I have my sister and my niece. I have Dan. I have my Dad’s side of the family. I have Dan’s family. I have a lot of wonderful friends. But that doesn’t change the emptiness that is there sometimes.
And I regret the distance that has grown between myself and family members, family friends, and old neighbors and friends in my hometown. When my mom got sick, she stopped calling people and didn’t want anyone to know how sick she was, so I sort of naturally followed suit. I stopped going to family gatherings, I stopped going to holiday parties, we moved away from our hometown into a small apartment. Between dealing with my mother’s illness and death, as well as being at an age and maturity level where you can’t recognize the importance of maintaining those connections when you are just so busy all of the important things in your life, all of a sudden I was making the guest list for my wedding and realized that I hadn’t seen extended family and friends, people who had known me my whole life, for 5 years. And I never really got those connections back. Maybe those people would know the full story of how my parents got together?
So today is the day for bandage ripping, and couch crying. For grief, and regrets, and memories. And a day for sharing it instead of pretending that I’m not crying.