Today would have been my Mother’s birthday and tomorrow is the first anniversary of my Father’s death.
Yeah, it is a bittersweet kind of weekend.
While watching the storm outside, I was thinking about both and the impacts they had on my life.
It is fitting that the rain is coming down and the wind thrashing around outside this morning. Today would have been Mom’s 79th birthday (she died in 2008, far to early) and she loved to watch the storms blow in from across First Roach Pond. She would sit in her lawn chair until the rain and wind forced her inside. First Roach was the place where we camped back in the 60s & 70s, and they continued to camp there even after us kids grew up. It was about the only wilderness place that I know of that Mom wanted to go to. You can read my thoughts from when she died in 2008 here.
Dad died on October 18th last year and the world has changed so much for me in that time. I do miss our conversations and the telephone calls that I could make when I was sorting something important in my life out. He often called himself a man of out of time, in that he didn’t fit in today’s world. In some ways I think he died at the right time for him, with the restrictions on his life that the pandemic would have brought, he would have had an even more difficult time fitting his lifestyle and beliefs into what the world is now. He always did have a rebellious streak and a lack of patience with authority or uppity people. You can read my thoughts about Dad’s death here.
Now when I look back on the parts of my life with them in it, I see my Mother and Father differently than most did and definitely differently than when I was younger.
When I was born they were still kids themselves, not ready for the responsibilities of parenthood or ready to accept the mantle of being adults. Then they had a miscarriage, four more children over the next six years and an accidental one eight years later. Although I know that Mom and Dad loved all of us more than we knew at the time, my childhood memories are a mixed bag of good and bad.
Looking back, I can say that my Grandparents had more influence on how I was raised and the beliefs that I have, than my parents. My brother Russell, was more their oldest child and I was more my Grandparent’s youngest son. That is where I spent most of my waking hours growing up and I share a different set of values than the rest of my family because of it. Which had other effects on my relationship with my parents and continues with my surviving siblings to this day.
Let’s just say when I left to go in the military it was definitely time to go. Our relationship at that time was strained to say the least. However, after going in the military, my Mom and Dad’s house in Newport was always open to me when I returned and became my real home as I grew older and finally matured a lot more.
Even through the tough times in our relationships and there were more than a few. In my twenties I learned that my parents were always my biggest supporters and after several conversations with my Mother figured out their reasons for letting my grandparents basically raise me. I also know that they worked hard at keeping me humble and grounded when I needed it (which was more often than I want to admit).
Mom and Dad both had their demons (don’t we all), but both eventually became better parents and later I when I began to understand more about life, they became people I trusted and whose advice I sought out. The last years of both of their lives they were important parts of my life and now that they are gone I miss their love, advice and support more than anyone will ever know.
What I learned?
That my parents had a tough start to their life together and made decisions early on that allowed me to be here and then allowed allowed my grandparents to pretty much raise me. Now I see my Mother and Father from the lens of an old man with a lifetime behind him and my perspective is very different from the guy who left to go in the military all those years ago.
With that perspective I can only respect what they did for me even more.
When I look back on the parts of their lives that I saw. I see two young people who didn’t have a clue, had more than a few very tough times that they made it through together — sometimes despite one another and at the end were both people that I loved and respected. All I know is that these two days will be difficult days while I am reflecting on life, my past, my parents, how they lived their lives and yes, how if anything could have been different. A game we all play.
It is said that the veil between here and there thins in October. I wonder if any unexplainable things will happen over the next couple of weeks and then if I will hear a chuckle or two that I might recognize.
I have a feeling that a road trip up to First Roach via Newport might happen sometime in the next couple of weeks. To honor their memory and also to take a hike down memory lane.
If your parents are still alive, give them a call or visit if you safely can. Try to keep them a part of your life because at some point in the future they will be gone and you will regret not being able to talk with them again.
If your parents have passed, think about the people they were in your life. Not everything will be great, but there are good things that you need to remember and think about how they helped shape you into the person you are today.
Once you do those things go out and live a life well-lived and work to create a life that if you have children or others who are important to you, that they will have more good memories of who you are and were once you are gone.
The living keep on living, but the living also keep the memories of those who have departed alive, so it is important to create as many good ones as possible.
I plan to keep creating a life well-lived for myself and do the best that I can for those who are a part of my life.
You can do the same, if you chose to.
Part of a life well-lived is remembering those who have died and left marks on our hearts. Not holes, but indelible marks and memories of being loved by them.