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Happy Birthday to Me

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

Last week my birthday came and went. It was a great week, and I celebrated in many ways. Most untraditionally because why would I do anything traditionally? It just wouldn’t be me to do so. Nonetheless, it was my first birthday as an orphan. I don’t like using that word, orphan, but it is the truth. Is there another way of saying it that sounds better? I wonder how the English would say it because everything they say sounds lovely, doesn’t it? They would say a parentless child or something similar that sounds much nicer than orphan.

In any case, I am a parentless child. It was on my mind beginning the week prior and for a few days after. Obviously, it is still on my mind, or I wouldn’t be writing about it. It feels different. The whole week prior, I had dreams of my childhood. Things I had not thought of in a very long time, if ever. They weren’t nightmares or anything of that sort. They were just ordinary dreams with ordinary happenings. But both my parents were in my dreams. All of them. For those of you who may not know, my parents died within 4 days of each other, and I’d like to think they were in my dreams togethers on purpose. As a sign for me that they are well in Heaven.

I had a heavy heart even though I was enjoying my birthday week. I treated myself a little bit, and my husband and sons got me flowers. Beautiful flowers that are still alive and keeping my house looking smart. We had a nice dinner with the family. I’m not a showy kind of birthday girl, so it was just perfect. Except I kept waiting for someone to call. I knew my parents were not going to call, but I would forget and every now and then I’d wonder why my mom hadn’t called, or why my dad didn’t call. It was brief but I did it several times throughout the day. It even brought me to tears a few times when I realized they will never be calling me again. That caught me off guard.

There is sorrow in my heart that there is no one in the world that will love me again like a parent loves his or her child. That is not an easy feeling. This knowledge gives me physical pain which is why they call it heartache, I am sure. Perhaps I’m still in mourning as it hasn’t been quite a year. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is that same anguish. I don’t have that special day to honor either one anymore in person. To show them how much they mean to me. I see mothers and daughters out to lunch or shopping together, and it makes me so sad that I will never get to do that again with my mom. I used to call my dad when I needed to know how to fix something around the house. He was better than google. I always knew I would miss them once they were gone, but I didn’t realize how much. I feel lonely in ways I cannot describe. I find I don’t reveal myself to anyone like I used to with my mother; I just keep things to myself.

The last few years it was my Dad that would call me on my birthday. Mom had Alzheimer’s and he took over like a champ. He picked right up where she left off, believe me. We became very close very quickly. We talked almost every day, and about a lot of things, and I learned so much about the man he was. What a guy! I learned all about his time in World War II, where he was stationed, the things he did. I even have photos! Incredible photos. Why did we wait all these years to start sharing these things? At least I got to do it instead of trying to piece things together after he was gone.

My father had great talent as an artist too, but he didn’t spend time with it. He had too much to do while raising his family and being an artist didn’t fit into his life. His handwriting was beautiful right up until the day he passed. He wrote so melodiously, is the only way to describe it. As is everything he wrote was a song.

Sadly, I experienced a significant amount of death as a young teenager, most importantly, a brother that was just 15 months older than I. It was devastating and maybe another time I’ll get more into that, but my point is, as devastating as it was and is, we never really believe that one day we will be without our parents. Most of us consider our parents our rock, our safety nets, advisors, our confidants. We can reveal ourselves to our parents the way we would not to someone else and know they still love us. This isn’t true for everyone, I know, but it was true for me, and I’m sure for my brothers as well.

I think it’s a little harder for me because they died so closely together in December 2020. Mom had been ready to go for probably 6 months prior to her death, but Dad kept her alive with the outstanding care he provided. She knew it and he knew she knew it, too. She didn’t want him to be alone, so she kept going just for him. It’s beautiful when you think about it. Once she knew he was dying, she gave up. I don’t blame her one bit. She was tired. She hated what she had become.

So, this isn’t exactly a cheerful post, but it’s a heartfelt post. There is no doubt in my mind that there are many parentless children out there, and my story may help someone feel a tiny bit better knowing they are not alone with their feelings on this topic. Grief is different for everyone, and while I had my parents for an exceptionally longer time than most, I’m still grieving. So, as the saying goes, be kind because you never know what someone is going through.

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