Whether it is distance that separates us from those who have given us life, or their close proximity that allows us to take their presence for granted, we often find ourselves either too busy, or emotionally unable to openly convey our love and gratitude for all we have benefited from their presence. Although, in a healthy relationship most truly understand the love and admiration that exists between parents and siblings, few ever get to openly express their innermost feelings before our Mom and Dad, our guardian, teacher, mentor, and friend, have forever disappeared from our lives.
Perhaps we believe parents are invincible, and therefore assume they will always be present, for it is inconceivable that they will ever leave our side. But, when the time comes for them to complete their circle of life, whether we are geographically distant or close, we are often too overcome with grief and the thought of such an unimaginable loss this pending separation will bring, that we are often unable to precisely express our feelings. It can be very difficult as life lapses away to tell of all we have enjoyed together, of all they have done to prepare us for life, of how they will live on through us and our children, and of how they will remain in our thoughts and prayers for the remaining years of our lives.
I was extremely close to my parents, spent most of my life living in close proximity, and along with my own family, thoroughly enjoyed our life together. Yet, I feel that I never took the time to precisely express to them my thoughts, for my family and I were too harried living in the present and far too anticipative of our collective futures to properly reflect on the past. And, although my wife Debbie and I, and my sister Christina were by their bedsides when Mom and Dad passed away, I never felt total closure, because I had failed to implicitly express my admiration and respect for the exceptionally high standards by which they lived their lives.
But, the purpose of this note is not to cleanse my soul, but to share with you, the reader, my missed opportunities. Perhaps in doing so, my failure will encourage you to express to your loved ones, if you have not already done so, your most innermost thoughts, because I am sure that we share common traits that were inherited by those who gave us life, direction, selflessness, and unconditional love and acceptance.
Dear Mom and Dad,
The day John Lennon died I was stopped by a reporter outside a mall in New London, Connecticut. I was still grieving the loss of you Dad, the man, along with Mom, who had taught me virtually everything a man must know to confront life. I was startled by the reporter’s brash, callous demeanor. Seemingly assured what my response would be, he rhetorically asked for my thoughts on the passing of Lennon; if I considered him my greatest hero and if this day was the most tragic day in my life. Although I had never thought of the two of you in such terms, I was appalled that any rational being could believe that the loss of any one person could touch another more than the loss of a beloved family member, and that an entertainer would be my greatest hero. In a rather terse manner, I told the man that I loved Lennon’s music, as I loved Mantle’s playing and Bogart’s acting, but that my parents were my heroes, and that your passing was the most difficult day in my life.
Dad, during our thirty-three years together, I had never heard you grumble as you worked outside in the most adverse of weather conditions, and I never heard either of you complain about living in a rental apartment, never dining out, never taking a full week’s vacation, or spending over sixty percent of your total income to provide the best possible education for your children. You were an advocate in every sense, for if my actions seemed inappropriate, but were supported by logical reasoning, you accepted my explanation even though my behavior may have been flawed. When you passed Dad, I lost a father and friend, and, I lost my innocence for I had to become a mature man, the protector of Mom, your partner left behind. At first, I was angry that you smoked, which led to your contracting emphysema. But, this passed, because anger quickly turned to fond thoughts of the time we spent together.
Mom, you were, at times, my teenage nemesis, for you held me accountable by making me walk the walk, and talk the talk. Except for my wife Debbie, you liked the girls I found uninteresting, and you disliked those that caught my undivided attention. And, I will never understand your uncanny ability to know what I would do before the event occurred and what I was thinking while I was conjuring up an alibi. I was a relatively strong-willed kid who thought he knew somewhat more than he actually did. Only in the latter years of my life have I come to the conclusion that, as a teen, I knew little about the opposite sex (still do), only relatively understood the word moderation, failed to understand why you did not enjoy acid rock, and did not appreciate why you waited up for me to return from an evening date. From the very beginning you were adamant that college was never an elective choice. You were iron-willed, and for a few years, drove me crazy. However, life has shown that you were nearly always correct. I am eternally grateful for your steadfastness, audacity to be your own person, and your generosity towards family and friends. If I matured when Dad passed, I grew old when you succumbed to lymphoma for I felt helpless and unsure if I would be able to continue. Toward the end, it was difficult for me to hear you talk of your deceased mother, which is why I usually changed the subject. I just could not think of you in the past tense when you were by my side. You were my indestructible rock and the family jester who filled our hearts with laughter.
I have now shared life with Debbie, Christina, and numerous lifelong friends for a greater number of years than I was honored and privileged to have enjoyed with the two of you, something I could never have imagined as a young man stumbling through my adolescence. But, I want you to know that not a single day has passed that I do not think of you and the sacrifices endured, and the love, hope, wisdom, humor, and joy you brought to my life. You taught me the meaning of affection, for you were the first I loved, and your relationship helped guide me to my wife Debbie for your selfless devotion to one another showed me the path I had to take to take to find a similar partner in life. Your laughter and perspective taught me not to take life or myself too seriously. You imbedded in me the respect due my fellow man, and that one is not to be judged by appearance and what is said, but rather by one’s thoughts, mannerisms and actions. You showed me that compassion toward those less fortunate is a virtue for you had no tolerance for discrimination of any kind, or injustice in any form. By making due with little discretionary income, you showed that material possessions were of little importance if you have health, happiness, and a faithful, loving partner. You opened our home to all, and you imbedded in my sister and I, the inability to differentiate between gender and color. You were the ones who believed in me when others did not, and you never abandoned your faith in me when others had, thus giving me confidence and the knowledge that only I was able to determine if a goal was beyond reach. You had the uncanny way of knowing if I screwed up, and, without uttering a word, of making me feel remorseful as I realized the errors of my ways. You instilled in me such a strong sense of right and wrong, that I usually chose the correct path, because I felt a churning deep within my stomach when about to make an incorrect decision. However, you also made me realize that it is acceptable to make mistakes, as long as I learn from them. You taught me that life can be difficult; that I must learn to handle success and disappointment; and that I will receive only what I contribute. Finally, I thank you for teaching me the importance of trust, honor, and integrity. You never lied to me in your lifetimes, and you never disappointed me in your actions.
It is somewhat amazing that time enables us to integrate the good times with the difficult periods for together they encompass the memories that brought us tears and laughter, and emptiness and fulfillment. What we experienced we did so together, which makes for a far more enduring and unabashed legacy. I want you to know if I did not have the responsibility of caring for my family, I would gladly give up all my worldly possessions to spend just one day with you to enjoy your presence and to personally tell you of my thoughts, for I miss you today as much as the day you departed from our lives.
Your loving son, Roy