Molly Fisk: I Have No Parents

Something about the weather changing is reminding me that I have no parents. That shift in the wind, the rainy nights, no color left on the trees  except unglamorous rattling oak-leaf brown. I’ve always thought there was a warning in this change, one of those natural phenomena that makes humans, like bears, surrender to hibernation. And usually I quite like it. My mind goes to fires in the wood stove, a gluttony of novel-reading, three hundred different kinds of soup. It’s a great season for writing poems.

But this year, I feel as though winter isn’t just one in a comforting circle of seasons, to be followed by spring and then summer again. I’m getting the creepy feeling that my life is heading into its winter, and in the metaphor of a life, you only get one round.

My mom’s been dead for 17 years, and my dad for more than 30. I’m the oldest kid in the family, and have no children of my own. Suddenly, with the sun rising late and setting early, I feel as though my ties to the world are getting looser, that my turn is surely coming.

I don’t actually envy people who take care of aging parents, but I wish mine were still around to talk to. Think of the fabulous arguments we could be having, for instance, over this year’s election! My parents excelled at a kind of sarcastic East Coast raucous disdain, and I’d love to hear them aim both barrels at the current situation. Plus, I have so many questions! I could ask my dad why the heck he went to law school if he never meant to practice, and get my mom to teach me to turn the heel on a sock again.

But mostly I could watch them, so different from each other and so familiar, and be reminded of where I once belonged. They’re with me still when I look in the mirror — his wide-spaced eyes, but her eye color. His thick wrists next to her practical palms. You can’t spend much time gazing in the mirror, though — it’s boring, for one thing, and when it begins to snow who else is going to shovel the driveway?

I guess it comes down to the stunningly obvious: I don’t want to get old and die. Not ever. I realize it happens to all of us, but it still seems so absurd. If my folks were here, I could enjoy this blustery weather without a care in the world, because I wouldn’t be first in line when the guy with the hood and the scythe came nosing around.

I could bow politely and let them precede me through the doorway. “Age before Beauty!” as my grandmother used to say. There’d still be a nice big buffer between me and what’s to come.

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  • Julia November 25, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    I don’t miss mine.

    • C.J. ALLEN December 16, 2017 at 12:04 pm

      Me neither. In my head, I know that’s sad; but my heart knows why I’m this way and I’m OK with it, for the many years since their early departure. Hope you, too, accept and approve the way you feel. An old friend of my used to say, ‘it is what it is’ and that’s it!!!

  • Susanna November 25, 2017 at 1:54 pm

    OMG, an Elder Orphans site! I shall be going there directly. Thank you.
    Holidays especially grim with their banal, general cheer, when what people should do is locate the elder orphan in their midst and ask him/her to share the T’Day meal.
    “A little love from man to man is better than a lot of love to mankind” but it’s so much easier to ignore the actual implementation….

  • Jo Dame Shafer November 25, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    I have days like that, Molly, but then I’m nearing 80. I thought you were “only” 40. Please try not to be like my mother — she was an “old” woman at age 50, still beautiful, still gracious and charming (to outsiders), but with an unhealthy attitude. I determine long ago not to be like that but to embrace each age, even when I’d rather crawl back into bed on dark winter mornings.

  • Karen Donaldson November 25, 2017 at 12:27 pm

    Hi Molly,
    I’m afraid we’ve reached that tipping point. I’m feeling it, too, with the loss of both parents, no kids of my own, and a younger brother this year. There’s a FB group called Elder Orphans with tips for navigating this path and opportunities to connect with others in the same boat, fyi. We’re all heading down the same stream in the boat. Cheers, Karen

  • Mickey M. November 25, 2017 at 9:45 am

    Oh, yeah, and my mother’s recipe for potato soup! My dad, what was Korea like in the 50’s? I sort of jokingly say: “I’m an orphan now!” Ha, ha. Thanks, Molly. Virtual hugs from chilly Tucson (it’s November! Whaddaya think, Mickey?! It would stay in the 90’s all year?!)

    • hillsmom November 25, 2017 at 10:18 am

      Hi Mickey, I see you’ve been busy this morning. Yes, I’m an orphan now, too. It’s strange, but every now and then a thought intrudes that I should call Mother and ask something. She died in ’93, but left me a lot of recipes. I start to wonder if I’ll see another Spring or another birthday. Still miss BGC and “the class”. Cheers, from the “Wrinkle Farm”. =^..^=

  • Bev November 25, 2017 at 8:27 am

    I relate to this so much…maybe it is because the times are difficult for so many people that we think of our parents and that relationship.