As a teenager, you don’t appreciate your parents. They are tyrants without pasts or childhoods of their own – they exist only in the present to you, as masters of your domain, all powerful and all knowing, or so they think. They possess faults that they shouldn’t, and always err on the side of cautiousness. Their overbearing rules and mistaken ideas ruin your life on a daily basis. They’re the WORST PARENTS EVER.
Until one dies and the perspective changes. You spend every moment wishing they were around, the opposite of the previous sentiments.
And the parent that is left takes the weight of the world. In the face of your own personal tragedy, and a selfish teenager already, you again forget the humanity of the parent remaining. You forget that this person is a human being, who loved and lost in the most awful way possible. You take your anger, sadness, frustration out on each other because although you hold this person, this parent, to a higher standard, really you both are the same – humans who are suffering. You expect better of them and hate them for not fixing this, not making it better, without taking a moment to realize the absurdity of your expectations.
You fight and you scream hurtful things and clash constantly in the static air filled with tension, the space left empty by the one you loved who once occupied it. This will continue until you can see in the other’s face a mirror, of your own sadness. No longer separated by convenient designators like parent and child, you are the same – loss, emptiness, hunger for the presence of the person who gave you life. Both of you.
You won’t realize it easily. It may come in the form of an argument, shouting the most hurtful daggers imaginable, emptying your soul further of any positive emotion, filling your heart with hate because if it were full of love you’d be keeping yourself open to pain.
At one point, you shout ‘I wish it were you that died!’ And in that moment you mean it, with every ounce of your being because you just want the absent person back, and you would trade anyone or anything for that, especially this person, a reflection of your own rotting grief.
And you don’t realize the true weight of the words until they respond.
‘I do too.’
And it is with that admission, returning your hate with their honesty and vulnerability, that will change your life. You recognize the similarities instead of the differences, you feel the difficult but warm empathy return to your consciousness, pushing out the much simpler and easier enmity. You are not opposing forces, you are on the same side, and you feel sympathy for the suffering that is also your own.
And you soften your heart, and begin to live in the same way that your mother would, feeling other’s pain as your own. It begins with the relationship with your father, understanding that he lost the love of his life, and will continue for the 10 years following as he never remarries. You feel your own pain, but you feel his worse. You recognize the humanity of this man who was once a giant to you. And in his pain, his suffering, that you know so deeply as well, he is stronger now to you than he ever was when he seemed infallible.
It takes years to gain acceptance of the awful and unthinkable but unchangeable thing that happened to you, and your family. But every day you remember that you may have lost the person, but you will never lose their purpose. Every day is another chance to spread the love and compassion that they can no longer do themselves.
You owe it to them, to those that remain, to yourself, and to the world. Happy Thanksgiving, so extremely thankful for my family, my purpose, and the ones I love in my life.