An anniversary today, of ma’s passing ten years ago. A relatively brief illness–fifteen weeks from emergency room visit to her death–that sent more than one type of tremor through our family. Tremors that didn’t only make us all orphans, but also leave still-gaping wounds, some deeply unexamined and unlikely to be healed through time, it seems.
Our parents’ generation, born in the 1920s, was raised by 19th c. parents of the ‘old world,’ lived through a horrific economic depression, and served and sacrificed family and friends in an even more horrific world war and genocide. At least for our parents, it’s no small feat to have raised five relatively healthy children, put us through schools, and set us up to understand enough to be good parents ourselves.
It’s odd that I’m offering a measure of their success in terms of what they did for their kids. What’s even more odd is that I don’t think I know how they would have measured their own successes beyond raising kids. I know more about my grandparents’ goals and achievements (grade school biography assignments, no doubt) than I do my parents. Was I just that clueless, unaware, and self-centered? Well, yes.
Getting to know ma in the 24 years following dad’s death, seeing her emphasis on friendships, service/volunteering and, of course, family, did help me understand her perspective some, to be sure. Lots of good chats on the rides b/t Boston and Clearwater each spring and fall, some good memories of growing up with her brothers, their childhood trials during the war, and more. But I suppose I just missed out on such exchanges with dad, as I was barely an adult, newly married, and on the opposite coast when he passed in ’86.
When he passed, I know there were issues lying unresolved for some of us. And that lead to working hard to open up lines of communication with ma, trying to say things that were always left unsaid in our family. In time, I think that worked for most of us, though perhaps for some not until nearly the end. It’s too bad that the same craving to communicate hard stuff didn’t permeate us, the siblings, as that might have prevented later ruptures.
Hold ’em tight if you’ve got ’em to hold. And talk to them. Look them in the eye and make your love unmistakable. Do it now, do it again, and again.