There was a Reddit thread going the other day about things that sneak up on you in your 20’s. Amidst the usual mix of replies funny and pithy, insightful and touching, and everyday and banal there appeared one from user Lion _ Among _ Cedars addressing the grief of losing your parents early. As someone who has experienced this with one parent it struck me as the most incredible, perfectly devastating summation of the feeling of losing a loved one in general and I thought it deserved to be shared in full:
I’m 30 and both my parents are dead.
I wrote eulogies for both my parents, and I know that they will never see me get married, graduate, or host Christmas at my house. They both died suddenly, and without warning. Both times started with a frantic phone call and then redlining my car someplace while telling myself there’s probably a mistake. It’s just a misunderstanding. They’re fine, really.
And then a policeman or a nurse stops you and tells you that you need to sit down.
You know why, but you don’t let yourself.
Sitting down means you’re okay with it. Sitting down means letting them die. And you can’t let them die — not yet. That’s for way later, when you’re ready, right? You ignored their call earlier. They can’t die. You refuse to sit down.
But the floor falls away without you.
You dream about them, wake up, and realize they’re gone. You worry the dreams are wrong, distorted… but that you won’t remember. Is that her voice? Did he walk like that? Am I already losing the last pieces of them?
You get good news, or bad news, or no news, and you reach for your phone to call them.
“What is it?”
“Nothing. I just… it’s nothing.”
Your friends try to comfort you, but they have no idea. They have parents. You get jealous, but more than that you get angry. When they say their parents are bothering them about party specifics or nagging them about their job, you boil.
You would give anything to get the third degree again.
To see them. Hear their voice and see their walk. Even if they were mad. These people don’t know how good they have it.
You realize no one else knows your childhood anymore. No one. They know tiny pieces from what you told them, but YOU are now the sole guardian of every family memory you grew up with. The house you learned to walk in is one more death away from being just a house.
You tell yourself that everything is fine. That their memory lives on in you — their greatest conspiratorial project. Their living legacy. You are the shared hope they put into the universe knowing their visit was temporary.
And some days you believe it.
But most days, you just cry a little in the shower so your brother can’t hear you. You’re the eldest. You should be doing better than this.
Maybe tomorrow you’ll do a little better.
Call your parents, Reddit. I don’t care if you hate them. There will be a day when you never get to talk to them for the rest of your life, and it could be today. There was a time when I felt perfectly normal, and had no idea that at that moment I would never see or hear my parents alive again. It feels like any other day until it isn’t.
Call them. Right now. At midnight. Wake them up and say you just love them and miss being a kid. That your sixth birthday was really great and you never said anything about it. That you really like how they cook and that you really should talk more.
I’m expecting to see some confirmation comments on this. Seriously. Call them right goddamn now.
And realize what a wonderful, fragile, fickle life you live.