Next year I will be the same age as my mother when she died. I don’t attach any great significance to that other than it occurred to me in response to someone else’s similar thought. It hadn’t occurred to me because I don’t often think of my Mom. As a rule, I don’t generally think about dead people at all. It’s not that I don’t miss her or that I didn’t love her, but she is gone; like Monty Python’s dead parrot. She is deceased.
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.
With my Dad, it was completely different. I knew the exact moment he became my child.
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.
Until the age of five, my world was a small backyard, my parents and sister, a requisite imaginary friend named “Hurricane”, and an African American kid named Jerome who lived in a low-income housing project that backed up to our middle class yard.