Monday, June 10, 2019

There's a piece missing

Never in my life until now have I ever felt that a piece was missing. The expression of this loss relates unequivocally to the loss of my parents.  Until recently I adjusted to their respective deaths the same way I would cope with almost any other event in my life - that is, getting on with things, dealing with whatever had to be done, no looking back, just handling the immediate needs and moving on.  Naturally this is a favourable characteristic under most circumstances of sudden and uncontrollable change (as both of their deaths essentially were in spite of the fact that they each lived long lives - my father to 96 years of age, my mother to 92).  Neither of my parents suffered a long-term lingering demise. Perhaps it is for this reason that their sudden disappearance is akin to any other immediate loss or evaporation - you turn around and they're gone! Once again their loss was all the more catastrophic because there hadn't been a lot of alerts to the end.  Predominantly things just went on as usual, subject to the predictable consequences of aging.  I wasn't prepared for their precipitous death.

Unquestionably part of my promotion of this otherwise dreadful subject is the peculiar nature of my relationship with my parents. Primarily it was out of the ordinary because I left home at 14 years of age and never returned other than for short visits, never to my own bedroom, always as an interloper or guest, never to a house with which I had any prior acquaintance nor one where I could ever be said to have lived.

The unsettling part of this feeling of a missing piece is that, for one thing, I have absolutely no sense that life ever short-changed me of anything; and, for another thing, I am only now haunted by this disturbing emotion as though I overlooked making a train before it left the station. The evolution was quite unpredicted in that respect.

The gripping part of this odd spirit is that it has sparked an ember of thought which strangely I was never entirely aware existed. Though I hadn't the remotest condemnation of my parents (or what were simply the over-riding necessities of circumstance) for having sent me to boarding school in Canada at 14 years of age - while they moved three thousand miles away to Europe and I ended visiting them twice at year at Christmas and in the summer - I suppose it is possible my innate sense of sudden isolation inspired me to distance myself as a pragmatic scheme.  Obviously at this late stage of my life this enquiry is purely entertaining, especially as there is no patent collateral damage arising from the ancient consequences. To be perfectly candid what tickles me about this sudden awakening is that I actually had an affection of which I wasn't previously aware, rather like discovering a high-school love affair after the fact.

Having as I do (by virtue of nothing other than my advanced age and circumstances) a measure of maturity for the examination of this potentially weighty subject, I am enabled to a degree to analyze my parents with greater tranquillity and foresight than would have been possible years ago.  Nor is there any tragedy in the lateness of my stirring up of these thoughts. Except for the detail which I am now committing to writing, I have always maintained an admiration for and gratitude to my parents.  More specifically (and as answer to any doubts) I can't imagine that I would have done anything different for my parents if I had known what I now perceive.  Clearly my parents haven't changed as a result of their deaths; I have.

There is something inherently forgivable about preoccupying oneself with the details of one's parents.   Though it invariably enlightens the child, the curiosity is mainly directed to the parents themselves. The simple act of seeing them as regular people is for example a huge inductive leap by any standards! Say what you will, most everyone whom I have known harbours high expectations of their parents. Getting over that intellectual hurdle has taken me a long time.  However having now done so I am able with renewed interest and spontaneity to examine their lives with enlarged perspective.  One of the insights for example is my appreciation of what undoubtedly influenced my father; namely, having been shot from the air over the North Atlantic Ocean by a German submarine (and when plummeting to the sea, having bombed and destroyed the submarine). The speculation about the impact of that experience is limitless.  It also provokes another less generous sentiment; and that is the detestability of war generally and the question of what it must mean to have killed others for whatever reason. For the longest time these competing views kept me unwittingly at a distance.  Like so many others in my father's situation, he never discussed those details with me (nor have I ever heard an account of anything he may have said to any others).

Likewise my mother dealt with her own personal demons.  Once again she never discussed the details with me.  Children are not entitled to information.  I don't blame them for having kept their intimate affairs to themselves (any more than any one of us does any differently in most instances).  The reluctance does however explain to a degree the delay in my forging into that particular territory.  As I say it is essentially of historic interest only at this point.  But it nonetheless affords meaningful fonder.

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