When I was in high school one of my church aunts became very ill. The end was near and we all gathered at the family house to eat fried chicken and comfort the family. While we did that each of the adults took a turn going into my aunt’s bedroom to talk. Not to say goodbye but to talk. I don’t know how it came to be that my mother later told me what she and my aunt talked about. It’s more than likely that she didn’t tell me but I overheard her telling someone else. But it wasn’t what they talked about that struck me. It was my mother’s description of my aunt facing her mortality. Even in knowing what the dictionary definition of the word mortality meant; I still couldn’t quite grasp the concept that idea. Facing one’s mortality. I believe that at the time I resolved it as the simple concept of facing the fact that you are about to die. I wasn’t sure. I didn’t get it. I get it now.
As a child, you don’t normally think about the mortality of your parent. Parents are just there. Like the air you breath and the ground you walk on they are simply there. They simply are, have always been and will forever be. Even if you are an imaginative child turned writer who always creates sad narratives around what would happen if your parent died, you never really believe that it can happen.
When your parent is a single parent that changes a lot of things. Much like the fact that they don’t have anyone to share the load of parenting with; you also don’t have any additional person to look to. Your single parent has literally been everything. It’s not that they have been your favorite one. It’s not that they were the one that gave you ice cream when the other said no. It’s not that they were the one that never gave you whippings. It’s not that they were the on at home while the other worked. It’s that they were the only one. My mother was there for every game, every performance and every show. She was the one that got up and rolled our newspapers for us to deliver on our paper route. She was also the one that drove us around at night to collect our subscription money. She was the one that had to take off work when we needed to go to the ER and she was also the one that had to come up with the co-pay. She was the only one up worried when the bulls didn’t get paid or when we had to depend of food from church to eat.
You always hear people say their mom or their dad is their super hero. I don’t think I have ever used that word because I never knew what it was t have a super hero. All that I ever had was my mama. Many times, I quite literally only had my mama and faith in God.
With the idea of my mother going into major surgery looming, I distracted myself with as much meaningless bullshit for as long as I could. When I couldn’t distract myself any longer the gravity of the situation set in. I sat in the car just crying my eyes out. I would also like to point out that gospel music was supposed to be helpful in this situation but instead it made things worse. Every song sounded like either the perfect funeral fall out and cry song, the perfect video memorial song or the perfect final viewing pass out at the casket song. But in those songs, I found perspective and ultimately understood the concept of facing one’s mortality. Facing mortality is simply the conclusion that one is not immortal. The world turns, life changes and we as people die.
It feels like that is so much harder from the perspective of the child of a single parent. Or perhaps that’s only the case for a person like me that is all about narratives. Narratives can really fuck you up at a time like this because regardless of what the facts are or what everyone says, you already have your own narrative in your head that you have created. My mother, sister and I are a unit. We have always been a unit and we have survived things that most people have no clue of. The idea of the cornerstone of that unit being gone is terrifying. Most importantly, it leaves the two of us alone and essentially parentless. The only thing I can see is my sister and I by ourselves. I’m not even going to give the rest of that narrative powerful by putting it into words on a page. I will just the say that us alone without her is scary. And I know that her number one fear in facing her own mortality is probably leaving us alone. I know that for sure. All that she would probably ask would be for my aunts to take care of her girls.
I was never one of those people that called their parent a superhero. Perhaps because I didn’t know what it was like to have a superhero. Now, an adult who now faces similar struggles with NO children, I ca absolutely say that she is a super hero. I have always stated that she gave the ultimate example of Christ-love by giving her whole life to her children. Some might say “that’s every parent.” Without telling my mother’s life story I will say that it’s not every parent. She things that she sacrificed were extraordinary. She is a superhero but she is not immortal. That is devastating.
In my heart of hearts, I know that my mother worked her whole life to prepare my sister and I for a time such as this. She taught us to survive. She taught us about faith. Yet and still the idea of a world without her doesn’t sit well with me. It’s hard to find the words to explain it for people who grew up with two parents and I would like to also say this is not to diminish the trauma of losing one of two parents. However, I will tell you without flinching that it is a whole different prospect staring into a future that doesn’t include the one and only person that has you have been able to consistently rely on for love, comfort, support and even resources. It is an unenviable task. Praise God I don’t have to face it now. The flipside is I now I understand that , like it or not, one day I will be forced to.