Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"People talk about the death of a child as the worst thing that can happen," Flora said. "And it is. It is the worst thing. But the death of a parent is a loss of self. A loss of history. Who else really remembers your childhood but your parents? It's like you said about the divorce, that it was as if your history had been erased..." excerpted from 'Perfect Reader'-Maggie Pouncey

I read this the other day in a recent, and very good, book. I thought it was one of the most apt descriptions of what happens when one's parent dies. I experienced this to a certain degree when my mother died when I was 19. I still had my father, of course, but it was my mother who had taken care of me, nursed me through illness, known more about me than any other person alive. As sad as I was, it gave me some comfort to know that some part of my childhood, my child-map, remained in my father's mind. And then he began to lose that mind.

My father isn't dead yet, of course, but my child-map is now gone from him, and therefore, from me. There is no one left who remembers my history, my story, as well as a parent would. Over time, my mother told me many stories about myself as a child, but it's never enough, and some of the details have faded over time. I can only look at pictures and a few of the things my mother wrote down and remember what I can. I am, to all intents and purposes, an orphan, as I have written before. I go visit my father now and I talk to him about events and our lives and times together, but usually there is no real response. I got as many memories out of him as I could in the time he was lucid, there is now nor more time.

In essence, there are no more layers between me and old age and death. One's parents are that barrier, that illusion that we will remain ageless and alive. When those parents are gone, there are no more illusions-it will be our time next. This is a strange feeling, but I've had time to become accustomed to it by now. I don't think I will ever be accustomed, however, to the loss of my child-map, that secret history of myself that only my mother and father could know.

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