Sunday, March 20, 2016

I'm dying to talk to you ...

"my dad passed away today after a long stay in ICU
Funeral on Monday"

It has been a month since my old high school pal's sister sent me that message about their father.  A couple of days ago, another classmate from the high school days lost her father whose last days were in the hospital.

We are in that stage in our lives when our parents--if we are lucky enough to have them around until now--are beginning to remind us that we are mortals.  Mere mortals.

After they are gone, we can no longer ask them questions.  We perhaps continue to ask them--in our minds--and wonder what their responses might be.  Or, worse, we begin to think about the questions that we never asked and then regret the very fact that we always knew we had those those questions but never asked them.

My father was a forty-day infant when his father died.  Throughout his life, father apparently wanted to know about grandfather.  But, growing up in a culture in which one did not ask questions, especially about one who died young, father did not engage in conversations with grandfather's cohort of family and friends in order to understand his own father.  Over the past few years, he has often wondered aloud about having missed the opportunities.

The author of this New York Times essay writes about not having had the opportunity for conversations with her father, who suddenly died of a heart attack:
Part of the problem is that some silences are too wide to narrate. Words, even if the right ones miraculously presented themselves, would not be enough. 
Why is it that when we are so eager to talk about politics and sports--and even the weather, over which we have no influence--we shy away from having conversations about things that really matter to us?

As one who has always been interested in old family stories, I cannot imagine there is anything more for me to ask my father or mother or the few remaining ones from their generation.  I suppose I have been lucky in this, too.

It is only a matter of time before all of us from the old school in the old country become orphaned.  We would move to take the places that were vacated by our parents.  Perhaps we will wonder not only about the conversations that we did not have with our parents and grandparents but also about the conversations that we did not have with our children and grandchildren.  I suppose such strange practices, too, are very much part of what it means to be human.

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