Some days are just a struggle with old memories

Feb 18 2017 Published by under Uncategorized

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.

8 responses so far

  • Zuska says:

    This resonates with me. I left home for college at age 17, had my summers at home for 2 years then a summer term at college, then got married right after graduation and zoom! I was gone from the little town I'd grown up in, and from my parents. Two day drive away when my father died unexpectedly and rather young. Rare visits home. Then, the last six years of my mother's life were increasing intimacy & her dependence on me & a totally different phase of our relationship. I was not perfect but I did the best I could. This past Wednesday was four years since she died and I still miss her so. I do think, having gotten distance on my home, being able to make real choices for my life & do things I wanted, made it possible for me to do the best I could and all of THAT makes it possible for me to genuinely miss her, without guilt or regret.

    • potnia theron says:

      Thank you for this. You & I have gone back and forth about parents, and I appreciate your insights. Missing without guilt or regret - that, I think, is the best we can do.

  • Arlenna says:

    Oh. This caught me. Your posts tend to do that!

  • xykademiqz says:

    My parents are thousands of miles away and it's prohibitive for me to go visit them with any regularity. I have lived on a different continent from them for 17+ years. I am not in contact with them much at all, mostly because at this point they live their lives and I live mine, and we have very little in common. I care about them in the abstract sense; I know that I should care about staying in contact with them and about how they will get by as they get older (they are still doing great, knock on wood)... But, if I am being completely honest, I don't have the emotional bandwidth do deal with anything related to them, especially because logistically they are so far away in a country that's beyond chaotic and whose workings I no longer have much familiarity with... And because with several children here I am stretched as thin as I possibly could be and just have nothing to give them. Maybe I am just a lazy coward, hoping my unmarried sister who's there and to whom I hope they leave everything will take care of them. I know I am a bad daughter, and I feel guilty about it, but if I am being honest, I have to admit there is just no place for them in my life right now. What an awful thing to say... But it's true. And I fear I will be punished with my kids not wanting anything to do with me when they grow up.

  • potnia theron says:

    I understand this view. It is not far from something I felt 20 years ago. And stretched thin? That is likely an understatement.

    Meantime, do not project your feelings about your parents onto what your kids do/feel/etc. My mother hated her mother with a passion, and ran away from home, seriously in the 40's when there wasn't internet, or even cheap phone calls. Yet, at the end she was reconciled. Remember that you are not your mother, and your children are not you. One loves one children for who they are, and builds new relationships every day.

  • Dave says:

    Like everyone here, I've spent my entire life escaping my parents - well, parent mostly - to the point that I have put a lot of physical distance between us now. Sounds cliche, but education was my escape. But since I've started my own family, I've gained a different perspective on just how difficult it was for her to do what she did and keep things together. But there is just so much water under the bridge, so much left unsaid and said, that I do not know how things go from here as we both age. I try to maintain a relationship, but it's just so hard without old feelings resurfacing. As you rightly point out, it is essential to keep these things away our own children, and that has to take priority.

Leave a Reply