The year I turned 40, I became an orphan. Merriam-Webster defines orphan as a child deprived by death of one or usually both parents. But it doesn’t define child. I have been and will always be a child of my parents. They made me and molded me and left me far to early. I know that sounds selfish, but there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of them, that they don’t play a part in who I am and who I can still be.
My parents weren’t ready to go. They missed seeing their eight children mature into successful, caring adults. And we missed their support through our successes and our failures. They missed meeting most of their grandchildren. And my nieces and nephews missed knowing two wonderful, warm, creative humans.
My dad was only 61-years-old when he suddenly passed away. My mom was 63-years-old when she lost her battle with cancer. I am now 59. Do I worry as I approach their ages that my time might be short? Absolutely. I have inherited high blood pressure and cholesterol from my dad. Cancer clings to the genes in my mother’s family. One of my younger sisters was diagnosed with breast cancer three years ago and several of my cousins, all younger than I am, have been diagnosed with various forms of cancer. Has this played a part in my decision to retire next August? Without a doubt.
I remember one of the last times I saw my mom. It was in the spring of the year she died. We were standing in the hallway at home, holding onto each other. She had a catch in her voice and said it wasn’t fair, that she had so many things to do. I held on tighter, not knowing what to say, just holding on.
I see and feel my parents around me and in me. It is because of them that I believe in education. It is because of them I value honesty and acceptance. It is because of them I value family above everything else. It is because of them there has never been a day when I didn’t know they loved me.