Unlike a lot of people my age, I do not have to worry about my parents getting weaker or stress over taking care of an ill mother or father. Nor do I have to stand face to face with the reality of their mortality… because I already did.
For me, my life timeline was inverted and the stresses of dealing with sick parents came early on. At the age of 15 my father was diagnosed with cancer and for two years I watched a giant of a man waste away to practically nothing. I helped my mother take care of him, clean him, feed him and everything else that came with caring for a loved one, all while I was still in school. When he took his last breath, I was holding his hand.
Only a few years later when I was 21 or 22 my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. For seven years I was in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices with her. All of our money went into medication, treatment, doctors’ fees and hospital bills. I was there for her good days and her bad days until she passed away when I was 28 years old.
Fast forward eighteen years since my father’s death and almost eight years since my mother’s and it still has not healed. In fact, the older I get and the more of life I experience, the more I miss them. It is as though time, instead of healing, were reopening my wounds and making them as raw and as painful as the day that I got them.
As I journey through the various stages of my life; getting married, having children, getting new jobs, losing jobs, moving to new places, or whatever it may be, good or bad; I find myself longing more and more to be able to share these moments with my parents. I long for their advice or to hear their stories of a time when something similar happened to them and how they got through it.
When we are younger, we often don’t appreciate fully what our parents have to offer. And when they are gone you find yourself wishing that you had paid more attention to what they were trying to share with you or teach you. More attention to that story that they always told or that you had asked them more questions about a particular period in their lives.
In a sense, the passage of time has made me want to turn back the clock so that, knowing what I know now, I could soak up every moment with my parents properly. I could take the time to understand them better and learn from their experiences.
Even though I am grateful for the time I had with my parents, sometimes I feel cheated. Cheated of the chance to really spend time with my parents and for my children to get to know them and for them to be the amazing grandparents to my children that I knew they would have been.
Whether or not these feelings will pass … only time can tell. But, for those of you who are lucky enough to still have your parents, listen to them, enjoy them, appreciate them and love them.