People often say that when children get older they become the parents of their parents. Sometimes it’s the slow, inexorable march of age. Sometimes it’s illness or a traumatic event.
I became my mother’s parent very young. She was mentally ill and it fell to me to care for her (and sometimes my mentally ill grandmother and sister’s daughter). It left many scars, and I’d not wish the experience on anyone, but there was some goodness in it. At only six or seven I didn’t even understand that it. She died young and it wasn’t until then that I really understood our relationship.
My father was an air traffic controller. He weathered the strange shifts and pressures of his job and an uncontrollable life. He was quick-tempered and aggressively decisive, but also a kind man. Although I had to shoulder an unfair and huge burden I always knew he loved me and that given the ability he would’ve made my life entirely different.
When my daughter was an infant I took her to many places without Mom. Grocery stores, restaurants, and even to my auto mechanic to name a few. It was not a rare occurrence for women I’d never seen before to quiz me on where Mom was. Most implied that I was incompetent to handle a child and it was dangerous for me to be out and about without my wife’s supervision. A few didn’t imply, they were angrily emphatic about my child rearing qualifications.