Birthdays, Loss, and Memories

I’m about to celebrate my second birthday as an orphan; a forty-something one, but an orphan nevertheless. I don’t feel quite old enough to be parent-less, so birthdays now tend to be a little bittersweet. My parents were pretty damn special. Not only did I love them, I actually really liked them. They were smart, funny, great company, and stylish, to boot. They brought a lot to the party.

I was just 21 when my mom passed away and the pain of it was truly surreal. She was a beautiful force of nature and we were very, very close--quite honestly, I don’t think it’s something you ever really recover from. To this day, I will see a mother and daughter who look as happy and close as my mom and I were, and my heart aches . The loss is enormous. Clearly the universe decided that our time together was more about quality than quantity. I take great solace in the strong relationship we had, but it makes the missing part that much harder. We never had our “grown up lady time,” and I so regret that now that I’m a woman with womanish questions.

Two years ago, I was in the room when my champ of a father died. He suffered a long, drawn out battle with Parkinson’s and now it was over.  I was glad to have been with him until the end, as I hadn’t been there with my mom. I remember walking out of that hospital room and feeling stunned and completely untethered.  The chord had been cut. The people who brought me into this world were now both officially gone and I felt cosmically f****d. Dad was my anchor, my connection to everything and the answerer of questions about my childhood, Duke Ellington songs, boxing rules, Harlem back-in-the-day stories, and life in general.

As an only child, I have no siblings to rehash tales of mom and dad. The adventures are stored like treasures in my memory bank, and I take them out quite often to share with my kids.  I am glad that they have each other so that they can reflect together on their life with me, the good and the bad. I hope that my husband and I will be remembered as fondly. I am also grateful that my daughter and son and I have a strong bond, full of love and silliness. I know my parents are smiling on us, especially in our goofiest moments.

I’m a lucky girl. I thank my parents for filling my life with so much love that I can still feel it, almost touch it. That’s a pretty great birthday present.

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