Saturday, February 13, 2010

I Miss My Parents

Last week I turned a new corner in the Village of Grief and found myself missing, at once, both my parents. Until then, I’d done my missing on a strictly individual basis, remembering each parent one at a time, as if seeking to grieve in safe, measured doses.

Then came Tuesday, when, for the first time, they popped into my brain as one solid unit. A two-headed unit, whom God, evidently, had joined just as tightly together as the couple in American Gothic. Only, unlike the Goths, my parents didn’t look as if they wanted to stab themselves with a pitchfork nor did they look at all old and grim. Au contraire, they appeared to be in their still hopeful thirties, bright-eyed and smiling, easy with mirth. That’s how I knew I was no longer missing two separate people, but what those two people combined had produced: Me, of course, but also themselves as the indivisible duo known to us all as mommyanddaddy.

I lay on my couch, longing to hear their young, gentle voices, to touch their smooth, warm faces again. What I yearned for most was to pretend I’d fallen asleep on the first couch I knew, so Daddy would carry me upstairs to bed, with Mommy walking softly behind. Knowing for sure, for absolute metaphysical sure, that these things would never happen again made me weep like a four year old child. When I actually was that four year old child, I’d watch out the window every time they drove away down the street and pray to God they’d come back again. Their not coming back was a terrifying, almost impermissible thought. So it felt then and so it felt Tuesday night.

I miss my parents. I miss having parents. I miss knowing exactly where I can find them, knowing which chair they have chosen to sit in. I don’t just miss them, I specifically lack them, in the way I think I’d feel the lack of an arm, with the same palpable pain they call (what else?) “phantom.”

Naturally, I told Dr. Mars that my sneaky grief had once more switched tactics. I also asked if he thought I’d continue to miss my parents as mommyanddaddy or go back to missing them one at a time. All he could say was that parents who have lived long lives and died natural deaths (i.e., parents not tragically cut down in their prime) eventually became, in the orphan’s brain, not unlike historical figures.

“Like Abraham Lincoln? Maybe Rasputin?”

I was picturing a gallery lined with portraits of the historically famous. Then I realized they’d only be famous to me.

“You’ll still miss them, just not as sharply,” he offered.

He might be right. Then again, even a smart shrink cannot know everything.


  1. Hey Leah - know what you mean. I have a picture of me with both parents when I'm an adult in the house that they really wanted and finally got. It's a good picture and brings up good memories now. I'm sure that you will get to the place at the edge of the Village of the Grieving where you remember what was good and you move forward in support of that. Of course in addition to missing parents, there is missing friends and mentors... and that is a challenge

  2. Cher Ms G
    I never planned on getting old enough to miss anyone.
    K. Elliott

  3. It's been six years and I still miss my parents with the same pain I did when I lost them. I still can't get through calling the florist in Nebraska to order flowers sent out to Riverside Cemetery without crying (Jeannie, the florist there, knows me by now and is very kind). I have pictures of them on a special table. My favorite is the one with my impishly-grinning dad, Tiparillo in hand, looking at my mom, who has her trademark Kleenex stuck up her dress's short sleeve. My nose runs just like hers did, much to my husband's dismay.

  4. You are wise, Lily's Mom. I'm approaching the edge you speak of right now!

    Cher K. Elliott: I know what you mean. I never expected to see the next day, let alone 50+ years of them!

    And my dear Anon: Six years is but a moment. Thank God for Jeannie and Kleenex.

  5. I haven't come to the mommyanddaddy missing stage cuz mommyanddaddy weren't that good as a couple, but I still miss my parents and apologize to them on a regular basis, mostlly for not understanding life enough at the time to know they weren't omnipotent, just regular people doing the best they could. I also thank them regularly for what they gave me in life and what they left me after. I think it's an ongoing process that may lessen as other losses come along, but never goes away.

  6. Ms. Gonick, As I once mentioned to you, Harry once represented me in a personal injury case in the early 60's. I won't go into the long drawn out details but I did suffer life threatening injuries that put me in intensive care for over 5 months. This was a suit against a very big corporation, holding them responsible for shipping a flammable material in a glass container larger than state law allowed...which was the cause of the accident. There were years of wrangling back and forth, depositions, etc. Finally we were scheduled to go to court. There had also been lots of tricks played with loss of delivery records, surgical records...the typical corporate criminal behavior. Because I had gone back to work in my same profession, the corporate dogs were suggesting that I suffered no long term effects. Without the gruesome surgical pictures, I had to show my then, still horrific body scars...which took them aback. Even so, one of them sarcastically said: "Just what is it she can't do?" Harry, bless his heart, said: "Well, she can't model bathing suits." Bow Wow said: "Did she model bathing suits before?" Harry responded, "No, but she certainly could have." He cut to the chase and I was offered a settlement on the spot. Sadly it was only a fraction of what it would have merited had the pertinent records not been destroyed...but he did the best he could for me...working with what he was handed. I'm sure he did his best for you as well. I've always thought of him as a sweetie.

    That same year 1968, I used some of my settlement to go to Israel for a month and later it financed my escape from the Bay Area to Big Sur where I lived for the next 13 years...and met those for whom I owe my spiritual unfoldment. Harry held one of the keys I used to open the door.

  7. Madame DeFarge, that is a wonderful story.

  8. Dear Madame D: Thank you so much for sharing this. It sounds JUST LIKE HIM and brings back good memories. Is it too late for me to escape to Big Sur? Just asking . . . .
    Ms. G

  9. Dear Anon,
    I too do lots of apologizing and thanking. Thanks for writing.
    As ever,
    Ms. G

  10. It's been seven years since I lost mom and three since I lost dad. Recently, as you mention, I am missing them as a unit, as the parents, whose absence is driving me close to insanity. I have no other family. I have a lifelong illness so, to be honest, I thought I would be the first to leave Earth despite the fact that really isn't the natural order to things. Yet, here I am, in my late 40's and most utterly alone, Divorced, living with an alcoholic. If it wasn't for my pets, whom I love with all my heart, I would surely prefer to join my parents in death. However, I admit that I am far to cowardly to commit such an act. So, I will just wait, as has become my custom, for the day when I can rid myself of the shackles of this life. This is the first time I have had the "nerve" to share these thoughts. I appreciate the opportunity to share my grief. Thank you for this site.

  11. Dear Anon, You are more than welcome for this site. I'm glad if it helped you get up the "nerve" to express what is so very hard to express. If it weren't for my cat, and my fantasy that some day Mack the Cowboy will notice he can't live without me (even though I TRULY KNOW this can't happen), I would have hurled myself down a sewer by now. Sorry it took me a while to write back to you, but I just saw your email tonight.
    Hug all your pets right now and thank god we still get to have chocolate. (You do, don't you?)
    Love and courage,
    Ms. G

  12. Remember: the pain will *never* go away. It *never* decreases in intensity, and you'll *always* miss them just as much.

    However, eventually you *will* get used to it. Given enough time, a person can learn to cope with anything. Grief is the same. I lost my parents 8 years ago, and they were far too young ('in their prime' as it were). It's hard, and initially it feels like it'll break you, but it wont.

    Unfortunately in my case I think it has made me hard and callous. I tend to keep everyone at arms length now.