Sunday, January 9, 2022

Orphaned at 50

     The title of this post seems strange to write, and is probably even stranger to read.  But that is my reality right now.  I lost my first parent in 2003 when I was 32 and I lost my last parent in 2021 when I was 50.  When my Dad died in 2003, it came as a bit of a surprise.  We had just come home from a birthday party for my nephew and niece and Mom called to say that she needed help getting Dad back in bed.  It seems he tried to get up and fell down. I started driving to her house, a good 25 minutes away, and when I arrived on her street I saw a fire truck.  I thought she must have called the fire department to help.  When I opened the door I saw a body lying on the floor under a sheet.  Dad had a coronary event and died.  That came as a bit of a surprise.

    When Mom died in 2021, it did not come as a surprise.  She had been sick for 6 years and had really started to go down hill after breaking her hip in April, 2021.  By the time that she reposed, everyone had made time to spend with her and there were no surprise..or so I thought.  After taking care of all the funeral arrangements, the church Divine Liturgy and inurnment, there was one last thing that needed to take place.  That was getting rid of her car that was leased through Honda Finance.  That simple act smacked me in the face and forced me to stare reality in the face.  After 50 years on this earth I was alone.  

    The death of the last parent is an end of an era, the final goodbye to our childhood.  Writing that seems ridiculous as my high school graduation was 35 years ago, but it still is an end of an era.  The two people who remembered first steps, taught you to drive, watched you get married, watched you bury your spouse and watched you get remarried are gone.  The two people who witnessed your life, who gave you a cushion of unconditional love, are forever gone.

    In the span of 5 years I had a spouse of 21 years die within 10 months of receiving a cancer diagnosis almost one year after my mom received her initial diagnosis.  When Theresa died, a large part of my adult life died with her.  I had known her since high school and married her at the age of 24.  We grew up together, we learned how to be married together, and we learned how to be parents together.  She had a horrendous home life when she was a child and we had nothing to do with her worthless parents after she moved out.  So I did not have any in-laws to deals with on a go-forward basis after her death.  In some respect that made things easier to deal with.  No awkward gatherings, no sideways glances for choices that I made on getting married a second time.

    However, the one stark reality of losing a spouse is you realize that any familial ties you have to your spouses family do not necessarily survive after their death.  When Theresa died I still had my Mom who was living and that provided some sense of normalcy.  After Mom died in June, the reality of my situation hit home.  I am alone for the first time in nearly 51 years.  I married Jennifer and have been "taken in" by her family but I know that is only a temporary existence until death or other life issues do us part. At times it seems like Ryan and I are just outsiders who have been taken in; grafted into a family tree because there was some space available.  I see what happened to Jennie's relationship with her ex-husbands parents who have a tie to her children.  They are really non-existent in the kids life and Jennie has no tie to them whatsoever. If something were to happen to Jennie or something were to happen to our marriage, that familial tie that was forged through marriage would disappear given that we have no children born from our marriage. This is really no ones fault, it is just the way things work in this world.

     The ultimate reality sets in after losing both parents.  There is no longer an "invisible" safe zone between you and the grim reaper.  It was merely an illusion anyway, children sometimes die before their parents, but the buffer felt real.  As long as my parents were alive, I wasn't next in line for death.  I remember sitting with my Dad at the funeral of his brother Tom.  Dad looked up as the casket and said, "Well, I guess I'm next to go."  And it turned out that he was the next to go.  The illusion that as long as I was someones child, I could live as though I was still young and nearly immortal.  It really is hell to get old. 


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