Today I read a piece by NPR Weekend edition Host Scott Simon titled "We Don’t Fully Grow Up Until We Lose Our Parents". I had the sudden realization that my parents are gone. It comes to me like that. Every once in a while I have an “aha” moment. Oh right, my parents are gone. I lost both of my parents to Alzheimer’s Disease. I lost them slowly for at least ten years before their bodies left this planet. When I think of them it’s typically mom ironing my father’s shirts, the scent of spray starch, the Metropolitan Opera playing on a cheap radio and mom singing along in her alto voice. The sound of a college football game in the background. Dad is fishing on the beach in the Outer Banks or dressed up and looking sharp in his “monkey suit”, as he called it, before heading out to direct a concert band performance. My most recent memories of them when they were alive was when they were non-verbal, being fed by a nurse and wheelchair bound. That is never how I remember them. Not through defiance or any conscience choice. It just isn’t my “default memory”. It’s a strange thing, the body and the mind. I sat by my mother’s side when she died last July. Her beautiful shell with her beautiful blue eyes that sparkled with kindness that never waned no matter how far gone her mind was. The nurses wept when she passed. “She was our sweet, sweet Phyllis.” I, being attracted to minds more than appearances, thought to myself, I lost her eight or ten years ago. There is no actual point of loss. It occurs to me every once in a while that my parents bodies are gone but I don’t know when I really lost them. The day they died was both sad and liberating. Not like the day my grandfather collapsed from a massive heart attack. I cannot define it or explain the loss of my parents. They're gone but they’re not gone. They are singing opera and fishing just like they always did.
Kathy is 49 years old, a paralegal doing child welfare work. She has always loved writing as a hobby, though she's never had any formal training.