Lament for lost parents, chances

The Middle Ages

June 01, 2008|By SUSAN REIMER

My father died in 1991 and my mother in 1996. I remember their last moments and the funerals that followed more clearly than seems possible. These were events so long ago, in this high-speed world, that my memories of them should be as faded as funeral flowers, as overgrown as grave markers.

But I think of my parents every day, many times every day, and those thoughts can wash over me like melancholia. Suddenly, I am sad and tired. Other times, those same thoughts are piercing, and they sting in my eyes like ammonia.

Perhaps it is because I have recently been among my sisters, and we four seem to channel my mother like HDTV. Each of us displays a different set of her idiosyncrasies, each resurrects a different set of memories, making my mother fuller, brighter, deeper than she was when she was alive.

Perhaps I am thinking so painfully hard about my parents because their grandchildren are passing through all sorts of milestones these days - graduations and marriages - and I am wishing Bob and Jean could be here to witness it all, although these events would exhaust them, confound them, make them ask quietly for a ride home.

But mostly, when I think of my parents, I think of wanting them around. I want their company. I want to talk to them about things, about nothing.

I want to sit near my father and doze while watching golf on television on a hot Saturday afternoon. I want to go out to lunch with my mom and buy us a second round of drinks and laugh.

My own children, and the rest of the 20-something grandchildren who are passing through life's gates this spring, are decent to us, their parents.

They pause when passing through the room where we are talking and pick up on a sentence or two of conversation, but you can see that they are on their way to somewhere else. They might hang out with us for a few minutes, but you can feel their itch to go.

Their cell phones ring, they answer and they walk away. We are already forgotten.

I understand. In my own 20s - a "Me Decade" if ever there was one - I don't think I called my parents once a month, and I certainly never went to see them without irritation or dread. I considered it a waste of a perfectly good day off.

They wanted to visit with the girl I had been, and she was long gone. The one who took her place was carefully hidden.

Years later, that girl has so much she wants to tell, to share, and there is no one left to share it with. I don't want their praise and approval for a grandson in uniform or a granddaughter who is a marvel in the kitchen. I just want them to answer their phone when I call.

So, this spring, I have felt an echoing ache, a dull emptiness that throws itself both forward and back in time.

I am missing the grown-ups I once ignored and feeling the loss my leaving will someday create in those who barely have time for me now.

I want to tell these children they will miss us - their parents and their goofy aunts and uncles - when we are gone, and indeed I have, making jokes around thinly veiled warnings of funeral home regrets. We will be dead, I tell them, we won't care.

But you will have to live the rest of your life knowing that you wasted a chance to be with us. And you will spend years just missing us.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.