|My parents with their 3 grandchildren, circa 2000|
Many years ago when I was struggling with something in my teenage years, I remember asking my father this question. "When do you ever feel grown up?"
His answer has stayed with me for decades. It wasn't a bland assurance that 'this too shall pass' or a cliched response of lemons and lemonade. No, he told me that he only truly felt grown up when both of his parents had died.
It was an uncomfortable answer for a teenaged girl, looking to her parents for guidance, even as she struggled to break away from them.
More than 30 years later, I now have children the same age as I was when I asked that question, and am facing the all too real possibility of life without being someone's child.
I know how lucky I am to be an adult with both parents still alive. In so many ways, I have taken their presence as granted while I became immersed in the business (and busyness) of career and family. They were always just a phone call or a plane ride away.
The past 5 years have been a process of slow mourning as they have become more and more frail.
My father has a medical condition that will end his life if not treated. It could be tomorrow, it could be 6 months from now, it could be longer. The surgical procedure that could correct it is not trivial and carries its own serious risks, especially for a man of his age who has been on dialysis for almost 5 years. If he decides to forgo the treatment, then his death is suddenly real and present in our lives. And as fragile as my mother is, she will not survive long without him.
This is not how I wanted adulthood to be.
Loss is already written into every life. It is our curse that we spend our days knowing this.