Monday, October 19, 2020

The penultimate day of my 30s

in the centre of the maze at some palace in London, spring 2016....
this expression is the one I could always hear on the phone, too.

I never expected to end my 30s an orphan.

My birthday will mark 15 years since I last heard my mother's voice, and writing that sentence still takes my breath away.

It's also now 10 months and 19 days since I heard my dad's voice.

My mother was 47 years, 2 months, and 10 days old when she died. My dad was 59 and 1 month, according to his death certificate, though that's probably a few days too generous. 

And now here we are, and I am 39 years and 364 days old. Throughout my 30s I have been acquainted with the ups and downs of a lifetime of grief, how waves come and go when least expected, and how sometimes when you most expect it, there's numbness instead. But even after being motherless for all the major life events of my 30s, I still did not see it coming that I'd have no parents in my 40s.

My dad was prone to the most ridiculous phone calls -- he would phone at strange hours because he never quite worked out the time zones (whether I was 2 hours or 8 hours ahead of him it always seemed just a bit beyond him!). He would call and literally say nothing and I was always making faces at the phone as I tried to figure out how to get more than a one syllable answer. He repeatedly apologised for voting for Reagan that one time, and swore that he'd always voted a straight Democratic ticket at every other election, because he wanted a country that was safe and good for me as well as my brother. He once promised that if I sent him a cookbook for Christmas, he would go vegetarian for a year. (Except for fish, because who could give up salmon? I chose not to argue the point, and sent a cookbook....a cookbook I now have on my own shelf, with all his sticky notes flagging recipes he tried.) 

I spent a lot of vacations in my 30s traveling with my dad -- which means that I planned and he paid. We visited all sorts of places and even though I was often annoyed at his complete lack of a sense of direction and his inability to tell me if he was having a good time or not while we were actually there, when we went home he always called to tell me how much fun he'd had. 

When I made a mistake on my taxes, and then made a worse mistake in fixing that first mistake, and then was too embarrassed to admit that mistake for about 5 years, he rescued me, and finally did so without a lecture about how to read my bank statement.

All those years I was desperate to be a real grown up and at the same time so grateful that my dad was there to help when I couldn't make it work...and yet I still never saw this day coming, when I wouldn't get a birthday card that said nothing but "love Dad", or a midnight phone call with his half-laugh. 

It's been so long since I reconciled myself to the reality that I never get to have a grown-up friendship with my mom...I wasn't really prepared for not having one with my dad either. 

So I suppose the lesson is one I didn't have time to use: treasure those bizarre phone calls and weird gifts and exhausting holidays. 

Today's poem is a song by Carrie Newcomer...because it really is how I think of my life, as before (when I had parents) and after. And I think it describes my dad's life too....before Halloween 2005, and after. 


  1. Beautiful tribute-both your writing and your life. Love and peace and may all your birthdays remind you of the love that made you and still enfolds you.

  2. Love you. This is hauntingly beautiful.

  3. Beautiful. Wishing you love, laughter and all good things in your forties. Maggie

  4. Thanks Teri. Beautiful. Honest. True. You blessed them as they blessed you. Keep being and knowing that blessing.

  5. Love you! Happy Birthday, friend.

  6. I love you and hope your birthday was wonderful. Great reflection here.