And I’m back to work as if nothing happened. Pushing paper from one side of my desk to the other. Smiling at students. Helping to contribute to an idyllic education in a bitterly cold, if brilliantly beautiful, academic wonderland.
My last parent died on February 7, 2015. I’m so startlingly aware of what I no longer have with each breath I take. I’m feel like an orphan at 31. Why isn’t there a word for orphaned adults? Well, one that doesn’t make me feel like I’m trivializing the experiences of “true” orphans. The little orphan Annies and kids on the Unicef commercials. Surely I should feel grateful for the time I got. I should stop whining. There’s no word because it’s not that bad, right?
There is a word, I guess. Parentless. But this definition annoys me as much as its infertility counterpart – childless. I don’t want to define myself by what I don’t have now, just as much as I didn’t want to define myself by what I didn’t have then. It leaves out so much. What I did have, what I had to endure, what I’ll never know again. Childlessness undervalued my other half, the man who made two a family. It didn’t let the world in to the daily battle we were fighting. It didn’t acknowledge the loss of naiveté we’d suffered along the way. It made cut and dry something that was far from that in our situation.
Parentlessness feels much the same. Though it does imply I once was with parents, and now I am not, it glosses over the agony by which that happened. The midnight call asking permission to transfer my dad to the hospital, the 1am call saying, “It’s not good,” the 2am call to say he was nearly gone. I listened to the hospital machinery chirp and chime as my father took his last breaths 400 miles away. I held my son, I packed the car, we drove. The last of the 3am unplanned drives home. My home. Our home. Our house now.
But, now I’m back at work. Living this other life. Wake up, daycare, work, dinner, sleep, repeat. Another house stands empty 400 miles away in a city that has my heart. With both my parents gone, I feel like that city is the last parent I have left, and I ache to be there with all my heart. To leave this job, this adopted home, this life I spent the last 15 years building for myself behind. Now is not the time to make major life decisions, yet I don’t know how to live in both worlds at once. So, I spent the evening of my dad’s funeral applying for a job 400 miles away. And I spend tonight restless.
The people that gave me life are gone. If that doesn’t make me want to start living, I don’t know what will…