Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Death in the family

When we are children, our parents are big and strong people who tell us where to live, how to live and are supposed to keep us safe.
When I was a young child, I knew how to babysit my two brothers and sisters when I was less than ten years old (there were five of us born in six years), make a screwdriver from vodka and lemonade, and had gone to 13 different schools before I went to high school.
My father and mother were always fighting, making up, and fighting some more.  I remember the bitterness, the over-the-top making up.
Now that I'm so much older than they were by the time they had divorced after 25 years of marriage, I have a different perspective than I did even a few years ago.
I look at this picture of them, younger than my grown children, married, with a baby on the way (me), and I see two kids.  They didn't know what they were doing, but, I think they did their best.
Just over a year ago, my mother passed away.  We had made peace with our past trials and tribulations and I had made plans to see her in the spring.  She died that November, calling my name when I spoke to her by telephone before she died.  There was no time to get there, no other way to say good-bye.
A few months ago, I found out my father, who had moved to California, with his second wife, was in a hospice unit.  Apparently his health had declined after my stepmother passed away.  I reached out to him, and it was very moving, and sad.  He never wanted to talk about what was wrong with him.  Instead, he told me he remembered me as a sweet little girl.  I sent him pictures of his great granddaughter.
Now, like my mother, he is gone.
His stepdaughter is making all the arrangements for him.  You see, she's spent more time with him than I did.  Although he had met my children, he never spent time with them.  Her children were his grandchildren.  When his second wife sent pictures, there he would be, with "their" grandchildren in matching sweaters for holiday pictures.  It was strange, like a family I had, but, have never known.  I had met Leslie, my stepsister, briefly, while she was still in college.
We learned of his passing, from her.  She called one of my sisters.
So now, they are both gone.  I'm sad.  But, in some ways, he's been gone over half my life.

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