One of the issues of getting older is that there are a lot more memories. Just as someone in their 30s, struggling with a job, a partner's job, maybe a child or two, has a hard time remembering whether this thing happened in when they were 8 or 9, I sometimes have trouble remembering whether it was this student or that who did the study that actually 20 or 30 years later turns out to be relevant for something this student, right here, wants to do.
But those memories aren't the struggle in this title. The struggle is when some memory trips my "mother" or "father" circuit. I spent so many years distancing myself from my parents. They were difficult when I was younger. They totally supported me, my decisions, my career. That was much more than many of my women friends had from their parents. "Darling, if you must have a career, why not be a doctor or a lawyer. Why do you want a PhD in botany of all things?".
I spent so much time distancing myself, exerting my independence, my sense of me. When I finally moved back to the City Where They Lived (and oh, yeah, I grew up) to take care of them at the end of their lives, I had a strong enough sense of self that I did not have to work at being me. That didn't stop me and my father from fighting. That didn't stop me from being totally aggravated by my mother's early dementia.
Now, I would give anything to have a cup of coffee with either of them. To listen to them tell me what to do with my life, how to organize my CV, or what I should be doing about my teaching.
I am not telling you, dear readers, to go hug your parents. Your relationship may never have gone through the spasms of closeness and farness that mine did. Your relationship may be beyond repair at this point. Or you may still be in the phase of learning to be you, and be an adult, and be separate from your parents. Nor am I writing to say "I am sorry" to them. I did the best I could. The path that I took made it possible for me to arrive at the place where I could care for them when they needed it. I am writing for me, for the catharsis. I am writing to say: Mama, Papa, I miss you.